Rampant graft hampers war on poverty

Integrity centre

Integrity Centre in Nairobi which houses the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission offices. According to the EACC estimates, the country loses Sh608 billion, or 7.8 per cent of the gross national product (GNP) to corruption annually.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

The World Bank cites corruption as a major challenge to its twin goals of curbing extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity for the poorest people in developing countries, including Kenya. Yet more than 7.8 million Kenyans, the majority of them in rural areas, live in extreme poverty.

The Bank says corruption in Kenya has created disproportionate impacts on the poor and most vulnerable, increasing costs and reducing access to vital services like health, education, employment, food and justice.

According to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) estimates, the country loses Sh608 billion, or 7.8 per cent of the gross national product (GNP) to corruption annually.

Kenya scored badly in the 2020 corruption index by Transparency International, ranking 124th out of 180 countries.

Graft is a major challenge to the nation, involving not only the public sector but also the private one and civil society, thus dragging economic growth and poverty reduction.

Many services, even finding a job, require money, which many don’t have. That leaves hundreds of thousands of educated young Kenyans jobless and without access to health, education and justice, which perpetuates poverty, improper government expenditure and illegal possession of public resources by top officials.

The government subsidises a certain commodity, for example, fertiliser, but it doesn’t all reach the beneficiaries as it is waylaid by corrupt individuals. Even relief food meant for the most vulnerable may not reach them because it is stolen by some of the officials mandated to ensure that. International trade has also been hindered from stimulating the economy due to corruption among Customs officials.

Campaign promise

President William Ruto had, during his campaigns, promised to tackle this menace should he win. This is the best time for Dr Ruto to deal with it. No doubt, corruption is a key constraint to growth and prosperity. We will never beat poverty if we don’t reduce corruption, which aids a few elites in taking opportunities out of the lives of the majority.

The causes of poverty are many but the major one is corruption. Shockingly, we have normalised corruption in our daily lives and doing it comfortably. The government and other relevant stakeholders should, therefore, put more effort into the war against this monster.

The public is committed to fighting corruption by reporting suspects for EACC to investigate and prosecute. Above all, according to the UN, fighting corruption is an effective means of winning the war against poverty.

Fighting corruption and poverty is not a one-man task; it’s a battle for all Kenyans. We ought to stop being observers in the accountability space and take our role in governance seriously.

Corruption goes against the creed of a democratic society as it violates the principle of inclusion by excluding those who do not take part in the vice. Therefore, the citizens must play a crucial role in opposing corruption by putting officials in check, as well as demanding an effective antidote and being on the frontline in the war against the vice.

Samwel Obegi & Rodgers Otiso, Migori