Graft is Kenya’s Achilles’ heel

PHOTO | EMMA NZIOKA | FILE President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto make a statement at State House Nairobi on July 4, 2013.

What you need to know:

  • At the moment when Kenya is restructuring government through the devolution process, attracting investment, expanding trade, creating jobs, and fighting terrorism, corruption is holding the country back. It is an unwelcome companion, and has no place in Kenya’s bright future

This op-ed has been signed by the following Chiefs of Mission in Kenya:

Australia High Commissioner Geoffrey Tooth

Belgium Ambassador Bart Ouvry

Canada High Commissioner David Angell

Denmark Ambassador Geert Aagaard Andersen

European Union Ambassador Lodewijk Briet

Finland Ambassador Sofie From-Emmesberger

Germany - Ambassador Andreas Peschkei

International Monetary Fund Resident Representative Ragnar Gudmundsson

Japan - Ambassador Tatsushi Terada

Netherlands - Ambassador Joost Reintjes

Norway Charge d’Affaires Hilde Solbakken

Slovakia Ambassador Dr. Michal Mlynar

Spain Ambassador Javier Herrera

Sweden Ambassador Johan Borgstam

Switzerland Ambassador Jacques Pitteloud

United Kingdom High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner

United States Ambassador Robert F. Godec

Corruption is undermining Kenya’s future. It threatens Kenya’s economic growth, security, and the provision of government services. It jeopardises Kenya’s Vision 2030 goals.

At the moment when Kenya is restructuring government through the devolution process, attracting investment, expanding trade, creating jobs, and fighting terrorism, corruption is holding the country back. It is an unwelcome companion, and has no place in Kenya’s bright future.

Corruption diminishes government services. People don’t get the benefit of their taxes because the money has disappeared into someone’s pocket. Money spent to deliver public goods such as safe roads and health care services doesn’t go as far.

A road isn’t built with quality materials or to the specifications in the contract; hospital equipment isn’t purchased because the allocated funds are not in the coffer; schools don’t receive the basic tools they need for education. Roads are less safe, hospitals are less able to treat patients, and schools cannot educate the next generation. In the end, everyone suffers.

While every country struggles to some measure with the debilitating effects of corruption in the public and private sectors, successful countries don’t tolerate corruption, they fight it. Fighting corruption also means fighting impunity for corruption, irrespective of the social and political status of someone suspected of having committed a crime.

We applaud President Kenyatta’s commitment to tackle corruption in Kenya. In his recent State of the Nation speech, he said, “It remains a hard truth that some of our public services are rife with waste and corruption ... that threatens the productivity we have so painfully begun to build”.

He has appointed a Cabinet Committee to focus in more detail on where corruption can be identified and ended, which demonstrates his intention to change the culture of corruption in the country. As international partners, we welcome the opportunity to support President Kenyatta to achieve the goal of ending corruption in Kenya.

To succeed, Kenya needs a sustained effort to strengthen governance and transparency together with rigorous enforcement of anti-corruption laws.

Past corruption cases should be expeditiously resolved, including recovering assets so they can be re-invested for the purposes for which they were intended. Only a strong commitment coupled with genuine political will at all levels of government, national and county, can put a stop to corruption.

Made progress

Strong democratic institutions act as a bulwark against corruption. Kenya has made progress since the 2010 enactment of its new constitution in strengthening its judicial system and making government more accountable on the national level. As President Kenyatta has said, “The values [the constitution] enshrines, and which we make our own, spare us the temptations of corruption and despair.”

The 47 counties should also work to establish a fair, transparent, and accountable devolved governance system with strong institutions and checks and balances to prevent corruption from taking root. Doing so will build trust and enable the counties to deliver the improved services envisioned in the constitution.

As partners, we stand ready to continue helping Kenya put in place the systems, processes, and procedures needed to make progress in the fight against corruption. Our experts already work with Kenya in many of the areas where change would be beneficial.

Technical and Financial Assistance has been provided to strengthen integrity and accountability systems within public administration. Specific attention must be given to financial accountability on the county level.

In addition, the international community is prepared to continue its support to a functional system of checks and balances. Strengthened oversight of law enforcement agencies and the judiciary are key to effectively combat corruption on the national and county level.

Finally, we can expand our assistance with civic education campaigns and build systems that give people a way to report problems when they see them.

We can also suggest ways to simplify and streamline business rules in Kenya. A streamlined, predictable business climate encourages efficiency and accountability.

It reduces corruption while encouraging growth. The equation is simple: More investment flows to places that have transparent business environments, and more jobs follow. Corruption thrives where rules are unclear and applied unevenly.

It exerts a hidden tax on business that inhibits growth and innovation, costing Kenya jobs and income. Many of our countries have experience in curbing corruption and improving the business environment and we are ready to share it.

Security has rightly been on everyone’s mind lately. Kenya faces a continued threat of terrorism and will have to remain focused on this fight for some time to come. The best way to combat terrorism is to have well-trained and honest security forces committed to serving justice through established legal means.

Security officers must be beyond reproach, impervious to bribes, always seeking to help people. Here, too, international partners are ready to help. There is no room for corruption in the fight against terrorism. Corruption jeopardises lives, plain and simple.

All countries face challenges and all countries face the issue of corruption. As friends of Kenya, we want its citizens to receive the benefits from government services they work hard to support.

Kenya can and will prevail in its fight to end bribery, payoffs, and unfair competition in business if it has the will to do so. We will continue to support the Government and people of Kenya in the fight to end corruption and to realize the promise of the new constitution.