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Focus on quiet graft, WB urges Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 15 – A report released by the World Bank indicates that if Kenya and other African countries focused on ‘quiet’ corruption with as much vigor as they did to grand corruption shams, they would achieve their Millennium Development Goals on time.

The report dubbed African Development Indicators 2010 showed that in Kenya nearly four out of five firms expected to make informal payments to obtain government services.

Chief Economist for the World Bank’s Africa region Shanta Devarajan who defined quiet corruption as the failure of public servants to deliver services paid for by government said African countries were off track in realising their MDGs.

“Quiet corruption does not make headlines the way bribery scandals do, but it is just as corrosive to societies,” he said.

He further added that tackling corruption required a combination of strong and committed leadership as well as strong policies and institutions.

“The track record of these anti corruption commissions that people have set up to fight grand corruption has mixed; I don’t say they are all bad but they have probably been disappointing. None of these institutions concern themselves with quiet corruptions. I have never seen an anti corruption commission saying we are going to go after absentee teachers,” he said.

Mr Devarajan who also proposed tighter mechanisms to fight corruption at all levels further maintained that the vice remained a big impediment to development in Africa. He explained that the vice derailed efforts by government to ensure that resources reached the grass root levels.

“When countries try to solve the problem of accountability they actually make progress. For instance in Rwanda in the health sector they introduced a system called results based financing; where doctors were paid a bonus depending on the number of children they immunised or the number of pregnant mothers they saw and this was verified by an independent NGO,” he said.

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Mr Devarajan however commended African countries for their efforts this far in trying to achieve their MDGs saying all was not lost. He said Africa’s poverty levels had decreased from 59 percent to about 50 percent between the years 2000 and 2010.

“What’s remarkable is that over the last 10 years the progress that Africa has made on the MDGs has been among the fastest that we have ever seen. For instance the poverty rates in Africa have been declining at about one percent per year. That’s a faster rate of poverty reduction than India’s,” he said.

Jorge Arbache an economist working under Mr Devarajan also explained that effects of small scale corruption would eventually take their toll on society further emphasising the need to stop them from getting out of hand.

“Think about the consequences that a child who drops out of school because of teachers’ absenteeism may have. After a long period the consequences may be significant not only for the child and his family but also for the economy as well because of low productivity,” he said.

According to the report 38 percent of government resources in Kenya did not get to their destined places while 99 percent of the same resources did not get to recipients in Chad. The report also indicated that corruption had gradually extended to practices that did not necessarily involve monetary transactions such as teacher absenteeism.

28.75 percent of Kenyan firms expected to give gifts to get operating licenses while 32.25 percent of firms expected to give gifts in meetings with tax officials.  Still in Kenya 71.2 percent of firms expected to give gifts to secure a government contract and 38.35 percent of firms identified corruption as a major constraint.

The largest population in Sub Saharan Africa was Nigeria’s which had a population of 151.3 million while the smallest was Seychelles whose population stood at 0.1 percent.

Sub Saharan Africa with its over 819 million people in 47 countries continues to present the world with formidable development challenges. The number of people living in abject poverty continued to rise with the number of people living on less than $2 a day had nearly doubled. In 1981 it stood at 292 million and rose to about 555 million in 2005.

The 2010 African Development Indicator contained more than 450 macroeconomic, sectoral and social indicators covering 53 countries.

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