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Watchdog Group Gives Mixed Review to Kenya's Battle Against Corruption

Kenya's year-old campaign to drive out corruption is getting a mixed review from an international watchdog group. Bribes to government officials are down in some departments, but increasing in others.

Kenya's immigration department and police are the most corrupt offices of Kenya's government, with respect to bribery, according to Transparency International-Kenya.

Its latest survey says nine out of 10 people seeking assistance from the immigration department were asked to pay a bribe. About 82 percent of people dealing with the police force were asked to pay a bribe to receive service or to avoid paying a penalty.

The report ranks the police department as being the most corrupt.

"There is the general low morale, terrible living conditions, low wages among the police, and the fact that they are in situations where they have power," said the director of Transparency International-Kenya, Gladwell Otieno. "They can decide whether to enforce the law against somebody or not to enforce the law."

As high as the corruption figures are, the report says there has been some improvement from 2002, when 94 percent of people seeking assistance from the immigration department and almost 97 percent of people dealing with the police force encountered bribery.

The Kenya Bribery Index is an annual, nationwide survey in which the Transparency group asks more than 2,000 people to name the public and private organizations that have asked them for bribes, how much they paid and for what.

Ms. Otieno says the 2003 survey gives a good indication of whether President Mwai Kibaki's year-old anti-corruption drive is working.

"We can take this [survey] as a judgment of how the present regime is doing," she said. "What it does say is that there has been a very significant reduction in the rate of bribery. But still there is a significant problem of bribery."

She says, while Kenyans are paying fewer bribes than in the past, the average size of bribes has nearly doubled to $52 on average.

According to the report, the incidence of bribes declined throughout most of the government, but it went up in state-run corporations and departments supplying water, education, postal, and other services.

Ms. Otieno says Kenyans are growing increasingly less tolerant of bribery and other forms of corruption. She points to incidents early last year in which people paraded corrupt police officers in the streets.