, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 18 – Kenya has once again emerged among the most corrupt nations in East Africa and the Great Lakes Region according to the Corruption Perception Index 2009 released by Transparency International on Wednesday.
The report puts Kenya at position 146 against 180, a slight improvement from 147 in last year’s index.
Executive Director of Transparency International-Kenya (TI Kenya) Job Ogonda said Kenya shares the position with Cameroon, Ecuador, Russia, Sierra Leone, Timor, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.
“Kenya has scored 2.2 points out of a possible ten compared to last year’s 2.1. Historical bad governance, corruption and impunity have led us to this tipping point at which if we do not get our act right then we will degenerate into one of the failed states that surround us. The responsibility for improvement in governance, transparency and accountability lies squarely with the government of the day. There is no excuse for it,” he said.
Mr Ogonda noted that the draft constitution which was launched on Tuesday had positive elements that would reduce corruption and abuse of power that existed in Kenya adding that the old one (constitution) did not.
“For example the draft constitution subjects presidential powers to account to Parliament and the Judiciary. It also attempts to make civil service more independent from political influence,” he observed.
He cautioned Kenyans against squandering another constitutional opportunity further urging them to read and understand its contents before throwing it out. He advised Kenyans to embrace the draft constitution as a document with which they could hold the political class to account.
“I know we will have strong opposing views about certain clauses of the constitution but we need to embrace it and ensure that as we debate and make amendments to it, that it remains a document which can give Kenya a brighter future,” he said.
Mr Ogonda observed that it would take a lot of effort and compromise from Kenyans to accept the draft constitution noting that sober constitutional discourse at forums that were neither prejudiced nor emotive would assist Kenyans achieve a new constitution.
“While research shows that most Kenyans form political opinions at political rallies and ethnic meetings, these forums are some of the least appropriate sources of objective information. Citizen ignorance, hard stance and selfishness defeated the previous constitutional review process by allowing myth and propaganda to prevail. As a responsible citizen you must arm yourself with facts,” he explained.
He further stated that political will in the country would only be brought by citizens who were willing to hold their leaders accountable for its actions.
“Political will is not going to be an accident. It will be brought up by an informed citizen demanding accountability from its government and as Transparency International, half of our work (though not news worthy) is with citizens of Kenya to build that political will. Unless the citizens tell Kibaki and Raila that ‘this draft constitution is in the interests of my children and their children’s children so you had better support it’, then there is no impetus that tells Kibaki and Raila to do exactly that,” he held.
He said that some African countries had performed well in this year’s Corruption Perception Index while Kenya still struggled to break from the corruption yoke. He explained that Kenya’s economy was put at risk with the high levels of corruption.
“Some countries like Botswana, Namibia and South Africa continue to do well while we continue basking in corruption. If we reduce corruption in this country we will become a little more attractive to international investment than we are now. The tourism sector will become more vibrant than it is now so if we want any economic development in this country then we must clean up our act,” he said.
Mr Ogonda however raised issue with the proposed tax devolution system stating that it placed an enormous tax burden on Kenyans as it required many levels of governments (at regional and county levels) which would require resources to perform duties. He noted that there were places in Kenya that could not be taxed because of their poverty levels adding that the many levels of governance would facilitate corruption.
“With increasing layers of governance you get increasing layers of corruption and non accountability risks. The lower the layer of governance we go (be it at county or at regional level as proposed by the draft constitution) then the tighter the systems of accountability need to be. The draft constitution stipulates that the Acts of Parliament will form frameworks within which the lower levels of governance account. I hope that they will be tight enough to ensure accountability,” he said.
Mr Ogonda also added that the injustices and inequalities in the country that were leading to violence and insecurity in various regions of the country were also to be blamed on the government.
“What we are witnessing in the country today is as a result of systemic graft sanctioned by a deeply flawed constitution. Compounding the conundrum that Kenya finds itself in today is a deeply divided society along ethnic and social lines,” he said.
Of the 47 countries reviewed in Sub-Saharan Africa, 31 scored less than three (out of 10) indicating that corruption is perceived as rampant while 13 scored between three and five indicating that corruption was perceived as a serious challenge by country experts and businessmen.
As in 2008 only three countries scored more than five: Botswana, Mauritius and Cape Verde.
Among the African countries Kenya comes before Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic Angola, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Chad, Sudan and Somalia.