What it will take to rid Kenya of corruption

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By Florence Gichoya

Since independence, Kenya has seen different changes in regimes but if there is one thing that has remained constant it is – corruption. This week the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) launched its strategic plan for the next five years. During the launch, President Kenyatta likened the vice to what cancer is to the body. However many Kenyans remain skeptical on the government’s commitment to fight the vice. It’s a fact that corruption stunts the country’s development agenda while enriching a corrupt few. It is a fact that in the 1960’s Kenya was at par economically with countries like South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore.  Corruption became our down fall.Interestingly, we have the best laws in the world but the more things have changed the more they have remained the same.

Every year Kenya loses billions through corruption and the culprits are hardly prosecuted.There needs to be a change of tact in the fight against the vice. First all Kenyans should be involved in the preventative measures. Compulsory radical campaigns should be introduced in schools on the values of integrity. The campaigns should be on similar frequency like the ones on HIV/AIDS. While this would be a long term objective, we need to use other means to achieve the short term objectives for instance; corrupt officials should be made to pay back the money they acquired through corruption.

But even as we aspire to catch up with Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea from where they left us in the 1960’s there are lessons that we can learn from them in their commitment to fight corruption. According to corruption perception index by transparency international done last year, Singapore was ranked the fifth least corrupt country in the world with Denmark and New Zealand taking the first position.

Nevertheless, the fight against corruption has to start from the top. President Uhuru has demonstrated this by speech but we are waiting for action. Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, leads in the fight against corruption head on and Singapore has tough inflexible laws where corrupt officials are prosecuted and face a 5 years jail term or hefty fines of up to 7 milllion Kenya shillings. When president Xi Jinping of China took over in March last year,he accelerated his fight against corruption by vowing to catch the ‘tigers’ and ‘flies’; what in Kenya we would refer to ‘big fish’ and ‘small fish’.

Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta
Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta

Last year, Kenya was ranked 136 out of 175 countries in the corruption perception index that was carried out by Transparency International.A big challenge lies ahead for EACC and the government in order to curb the vice. But the citizenry also needs to be actively involved in the fight, it is easier to accuse the police and other public servants for being corrupt but those give bribes are equally guilty.

A new approach is needed especially on recovering public funds and assets that were acquired fraudulently.We need more stringent laws on how we can recover money from the architects of anglo leasing and Goldenberg scandals which can be used to build hospitals and roads in every county. We also need to set up an education policy where integrity and values are integrated in the teaching of compulsory subjects in our schools.This will eventually influence future generations to be in-tolerant to corruption, Hong Kong successfully implemented this program and it is one of the least corrupt places in the world.

While Kenyans welcomed the idea of the president setting up a reporting system in his website, they will believe the president’s commitment in fighting corruption when the culprits finally face the axe. Kenya has the potential of being a first world country if we all decisively get rid of corruption.

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