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New Reports Says Kenya Had Very Weak Government Accountability Before Political Crisis

A new report released Wednesday says Kenya rates “very weak” in government accountability. The findings were compiled before Kenya’s current political crisis.

The study was published by Global Integrity, a non-profit group that monitors governance and corruption trends around the world. Its report for 2007 looks at more than 55 countries and their efforts to build and sustain democracy. Kenya is one of five countries getting a closer look because of its historic role as a stable democracy and strong economic performer in East Africa.

Nathaniel Heller is director of Global Integrity. In Washington, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.

“The Global Integrity Report assesses the opposite of corruption. That is, good governance, anti-corruption mechanisms in countries around the world. And we’re fundamentally looking at three things in every country: the existence of the mechanisms and practices that we know are effective in curbing, deterring or preventing corruption; the effectiveness and implementation; and lastly, citizen access to those mechanisms,” Heller says.

As for Kenya’s “very weak” rating in government accountability, he says, “Our field work in Kenya ended in the summer before the current crisis. But what we picked up even then were some disturbing trends that I think pointed towards some of the underlying causes of the current disruptions and crisis. The real problems in Kenya today, as we saw them, were still deeply rooted in government accountability issues. And by that we mean across…the executive, the legislative and the courts, the lack of effective conflict of interest regulation, poor asset disclosure requirements, poor cooling off periods for government officials, who leave government. And I think a lot of what’s going on now in the country is really linked to the lack of public trust in those institutions,” he says.

So was there any indication that these problems would have led to the current crisis? Heller says, “No, nothing directly. And I think no one really saw a lot of what has happened coming. That’s not a particular surprise, but the challenges we saw in the country were quite stark.”

The Global Integrity report does not make recommendations but rather provides information. Heller says, “It gets us away from the naming and shaming exercises on corruption, which aren’t particularly useful for anyone, and into a much more actionable discussion of a roadmap for reform. And looking at very discrete, concrete issues and challenges that can be tackled in real time.”