The Kenya chapter of Transparency International finds that two neighboring countries in Africa call on two different ends of the scale in terms of corruption. The group recently issued its East Africa Bribery Index, a measurement of the prevalence and impact of bribery in public and private service institutions in East African countries.
The index is designed to show how citizens experience corruption in public institutions across East Africa, said Mwangi Kibathi, research officer for Transparency International’s Nairobi office.
When the index was launched seven years ago, it focused only on Kenya, but last year it included Uganda and Tanzania. For the year 2010, the index included two new countries, Rwanda and Burundi.
“Our key [finding]… is that Burundi came out as the most corrupt country in the region… [and] Rwanda came out as the least corrupt. Those were two very interesting extremes,” said Kibathi.
In Burundi, he said, 36.7 percent of citizens were expected to pay bribes when dealing with public institutions. In Rwanda, the number was 6.6 percent. Uganda scored 33 percent, Kenya 31.9 percent and Tanzania 28.6 percent.
Governments are making an effort, said Kibathi, but they still need to improve on these figures.
“One thing that is very important is that all of these governments in the five countries are doing a lot of work in curbing corruption. By using this index, we are telling them while we appreciate that they are doing something…our study indicated that corruption is still a big issue. And apart from Rwanda, where you can see that the figure is quite minimal... for the other four countries, the message is that something needs to be done,” said Kibathi.
Kibathi said it’s not enough to pass laws and create anti-corruption bodies: “What is enough is to go ahead and ensure that when the laws are passed, they observe them. When these institutions are created, we follow up to see that they are delivering what they are supposed to deliver, and I think that is what they are missing,” said Kibathi.
Can Rwanda be an example for the rest? Kibathi said the country certainly has proven itself in this index.
“You’d be interested to note that when cases of bribery are reported, swift action is taken against the perpetrators. There are issues where even the big people – senior agriculture ministers, senior civil servants – have been prosecuted for involving themselves in corruption. That doesn’t come out very clearly in these other countries. So what they [Rwanda’s officials] are doing is taking the fight against corruption more seriously than the other countries in the region,” said Kibathi.