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Report Finds Endemic Corruption in Burundi, Uganda and Kenya

  • Michael Onyiego

Kenyan Police second most corrupt institution in east Africa, falling just behind Burundi, says Transparency International survey

Kenyan institutions are still among the most corrupt in East Africa, but the country is no longer in top place among five countries surveyed by Transparency International, a group that monitors corruption around the world.

The Transparency International survey says the Kenyan Police are the second most corrupt institution in east Africa, falling just behind the police forces of Burundi, the most corrupt country in East Africa, according to the East African Bribery Index 2010. The annual survey developed by Berlin-based Transparency International measures bribery levels in the private and public sectors in the region.

The latest ranking, released Thursday in Nairobi, shows Kenya has registered a slight improvement in the prevalence of corruption overall, dropping from first to third place behind Burundi and Uganda.

Nevertheless, the survey lists Kenya's Ministry of Defense, the Nairobi City Council and the country's judiciary among the top 10 most corrupt institutions in the region.

The study praised Kenya for enacting legislation, such as the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act and the Public Officers' Ethics Act, to fight corruption, but found that the country had made relatively little progress in eliminating bribery from daily life.

Kenya has a long history of corruption in the public sector. In the early 1990s, many prominent politicians, including then President Daniel Moi, were implicated in the Goldenberg Scandal, in which the Kenyan government paid over $600 million for non-existent gold and diamond exports.

In 2009, stores of maize from the country's strategic grain reserve were sold to local millers in order to combat rising prices and low supply. Much of the grain, meant for Kenyan markets, was then sold outside the country to avoid local price controls.

The East African Bribery Index found that in Burundi and Uganda, citizens pay bribes in around one-third of their public sector interactions.

The deputy executive director of Transparency International-Kenya, Lisa Karanja, told reporters that corruption could do real damage to the newly integrating East African Community.

"Exactly three weeks ago, the protocol came into effect amidst excitement and high expectations among the citizens of the East African Community," says Karanja. "Corruption threatens to hold back the attainment of the objectives set out by member states. The release of the bribery index is not an occasion for empty activism, but an opportunity to identify loopholes in public institutions that provide fertile ground for corruption and other malpractices."

The Common Market Protocol of the East African Community, which took effect on July 1st, allows citizens of the East Africa Community to live, work and travel freely within the region. The Community hopes to tap into combined economic potential of member states Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Though the East African bribery index paints a negative picture of the prospects for a smooth integration, not all of the countries scored poorly.

The report found bribery and corruption in Rwanda to be extremely low. Only 1.7 percent of more than 4,000 respondents were faced with bribery, and less than one percent actually paid, a figure which the report called "negligible."

According to Transparency International-Kenya, a comparative study of Rwanda's public sector could provide a detailed path to the elimination of corruption in the region.