Saturday, July 31, 2010

Corruption: Bribery will eat into gains of East African integration

By Jerome Mwanda
Republished courtesy of
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

NAIROBI (IDN) - A new report has warned that unless bribery is banned, 126 million citizens of the East African Community will be deprived of the benefits that economic integration promises to bring in its wake.

These words of caution stem from the East African Bribery Index 2010 (EABI 2010) released by Transparency International-Kenya within about three weeks of the East African Common Market Protocol coming into effect on July 1, 2010.

The protocol has given rise to high enthusiasm because it is expected to boost trade across the five East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi by promoting the free movement of goods, services and capital.

The East African Community has recorded notable strides in promoting trade among the member states. Intra-trade volumes rose by 87 percent in Uganda, 91 percent in Kenya and 65 percent in Tanzania between 2004 and 2008, heralding a bright future for the citizens of the bloc.

Individually, the member countries have formulated ambitious economic and social development blueprints. In Kenya the Vision 2030 seeks to convert the country into a middle income country within the next two decades. Rwanda's Vision 2020, Vision 2025 for Tanzania and Uganda's Poverty Eradication Plan seek to achieve similar goals. The countries have already made initial steps towards these goals especially in infrastructural development.

At the core of these ambitious development plans is the promotion of good governance; a lack of which is likely to hold back the attainment of the plans, according to EABI 2010.

It warns: "The resources earmarked for requisite extensive infrastructural development may end up in private hands through corruption. The much needed foreign investments may not be forthcoming or sustained unless good governance is actualised."

This is because Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda are at different stages of joining the league of oil producing countries. "This calls for a transparent governance environment if the region is to avoid resource curse previously faced by other African countries," says the report.

The East African Bribery Index is a governance tool developed to measure bribery levels in the private and public sectors in the region. The index registers the firsthand experiences of the residents of the region in respect of service delivery and corruption.

It seeks to establish the extent of bribery by seeking information on where the respondents were asked to pay bribes, if they acceded to bribery demands and the amount of bribe paid. Although the index is a tool to measure petty bribery, it is a general indicator for other forms of corruption in a particular country.

The index is based on a survey, which was conducted at the household level among 10,469 respondents across the five East African countries. The number of respondents in each country and administrative region were selected in proportion to the respective population size. Sampled households and respondents were picked through simple random sampling.

EABI 2010 clearly shows that apart from Rwanda where incidents of bribery were found to be negligible, corruption is still an impediment to public service delivery in the region.

Key governance and enforcement institutions such as the judiciary, the police and local authorities featured prominently in the index. Service institutions in the water, electricity, education and health sectors also dominated the top ranks of bribery-prone institutions in the region, compromising accessibility to and the quality of services offered.

"It is imperative that institutions in the region scrutinise their service delivery mechanisms with a view to root out channels through which majority of the citizens are locked out of basic services thus promoting inequality and poverty," says Transparency International-Kenya.

The index highlights that the reportage of corruption cases is still very low in the region. 93 percent of the respondents from Uganda who experienced a bribery situation did not report the matter to any authority, while 92.9 percent of those who were in a bribery situation in Tanzania did not file a complaint.

Majority of the respondents in Burundi (92 percent) did not report the bribery incident. In Kenya, 89 percent of the respondents did not report corruption cases, while the majority of those who filed complaints (40.8 percent) sought redress from the management of the respective institutions with 11 percent and 4.9 percent reporting to the police and the Office of the Ombudsman (Public Complaints Standing Committee) respectively.

The report provides a valuable insight into the corruption situation in the five East African countries.


Since 2003, Kenya has made notable strides towards developing legislative and administrative measures to curb corruption in the public sector. These efforts followed the presidential commitment upon accession to office in December 2002 that corruption will cease to be a way of life.

Key legislation related to the fight against corruption that has been passed include the Anti Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, the Public Officers' Ethics Act and the Public Procurement and Disposal Act. To further affirm its commitment in the war against graft, Kenya became the first country to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in December 2003.

Corruption however remained a part of public practice as the wide array of institutions set up after 2002 to promote good governance were unable to compellingly tackle the vice coupled with a lack of genuine political goodwill to curb graft. In some instances, the founding legislation gave a limiting mandate on the same.

Several past corruption scandals for instance Goldenberg -- where the taxpayer lost $600 million U.S. dollar -- are yet to be resolved. The maize scandal involving the sale of subsidised maize that emerged in 2009 cost the country approximately $26 million. Public officials adversely mentioned in the scandal were suspended from public office to facilitate investigations, but have since been reinstated although the details of the probe are yet to be made public.

Funds for the free education programme were also reportedly misappropriated to the tune of $1 million, causing some donors to suspend their support to the programme. Some ministry officials have been charged in court, while the Permanent Secretary in the ministry was suspended but later reinstated in a different ministry after investigations into the matter.
Claims of corruption and misappropriation of public funds have not escaped the Ministry of Special Programmes which is supposed to lend the Kenyan Government a humane face.

Corruption has slowed down the pace of resettlement for Kenyans who were displaced from their homes during the violence that erupted after the 2007 general elections. Two years after the violence broke out, several Kenyans are still in camps for the internally displaced or transit camps. In 2009, the Minister for Special Programmes dismissed an audit report prepared by the Office of the president which blamed the ministry for the loss of Sh200 million meant for the internally displaced persons (IDPs), arguing that it was meant to cover up the misdeeds of the Provincial Administration officials.

The report notes: "The pattern clearly shows that corruption continues to prevail in critical social sectors in the country, undermining the standard of living of several Kenyans. A proposed Constitution containing stronger accountability safeguards will be put to vote in August 2010. If passed, it is hoped that corruption incidents will drastically reduce paving the way for greater social and economic development."


In 1992 Tanzania adopted multiparty politics aimed at eliminating monopoly in the political sphere. In 1995, Tanzania began the adoption of the Economic Recovery Programmes that aimed to eradicate state monopoly in the economy. There have since been a number of governance reforms aimed at improving organisational efficiency, personnel control and management, and capacity building across the realms of local government and regional administration, public sector management, legal and regulatory framework, and parastatals.

There have also been major policy and legal reforms initiated to strengthen governance institutions, structures and systems -- to promote good governance and deter corruption. The notable reforms are the Public Sector Reform Programme (PSRP), Public Finance Management Reform Programme (PFMRP), Legal Sector Reform Programme (LSRP), Local Government Reform Programme (LGRP), National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plans (NACSAP) I & II, Good Governance Coordination Unit (GGCU), the institutional strengthening of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), and the enactment of some specific legislation. The reforms equally respond to specific recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry Against Corruption, popularly known as, the 'Warioba Report'.

Moreover, Tanzania has ratified the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AU Convention), the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the Southern African Development Community Protocol Against Corruption (SADC) Protocol.

Despite these efforts, evidence still paints a gloomy picture of the status of Tanzania’s good governance and anti-corruption efforts. The Tanzania Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST) indicates rising incidents of corruption in the construction sector.

The Tanzania Civil Engineering Contractors Association (TACECA) estimates that 90 percent of contractors pay between 10 to 15 percent of contract value in bribes. Moreover, in 2004, the Engineers Registration Board (ERB) and the Association of Consulting Engineers Tanzania (ACET) estimated that over 90 percent of construction contract awards and about 70 percent of consultancy assignments were secured through corruption.

The energy sector and the Bank of Tanzania have been under the media spotlight for over three years following implication in grand corruption scandals -- including the grossly inflated and corruptly procured construction of the Bank of Tanzania's Twin towers project, misappropriation of over $133 million in the External Payment Arrears (EPA) Account, and the corruptly procured emergency power service contract worth $173 million (Richmond LLC) among others.

According to the study, there have also been reports of high inefficiency and waste in HIV/AIDS programmes in Tanzania1 it was not clear how funds for these programmes were spent. "Government efforts therefore need to be evaluated and sharpened to improve service delivery and expedite the attainment of development goals," the report states.


The Inspectorate of Government, a statutory institution charged with the responsibility of fighting corruption in the country, in a 2009 report to parliament, acknowledged that corruption is increasing and is rampant in the public sector.

The survey identified the Uganda Police, Kampala City Council, Land Office, Public Service (pension office), Judiciary, Uganda National Bureau of Standards, public health units, District Contracts Committees and Uganda Revenue Authority among the most corrupt public institutions. It identified the most prevalent forms of corruption in the country as bribery, embezzlement, extortion among others.

It also highlighted new methods devised by government officials to loot from public coffers. Among these methods is syndicate corruption, in which high ranking government officials connive with the private sector to overcharge or overbill the government and then share the loot with the payee.

Another method used by officials is delaying the execution of services to create a crisis and anxiety that will in turn necessitate urgency and justify the waiving of the prescribed procurement procedures.

This was the case during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2007 where colossal amounts of public funds were stolen in hurried procurements.

"From the corruption incidents outlined above, it is clear that the anti-corruption legislation in Uganda have had little impact thus strengthening the cause to review them," EABI 2010 underlines.


Burundi has put in place several legal mechanisms to combat corruption. These include the creation of an anti-bribery squad, creation of a corruption court (loi no 1/36 du 13 décembre 2006 portant création de la cour anti-corruption), and laws on public procurement (Loi n 1/01 du 4 février 2008 portant Code des Marchés Publics du Burundi). This legislation seeks to enhance efficiency and transparency in procurement. It also demonstrates a commitment to eradicate graft in the public sector.

Despite these efforts, corruption is still rampant in Burundi's public administration and service delivery sector. Non-governmental players like OLUCOME- Observatoire de lutte contre la corruption et les malversations economiques / Observatory for the Fight against Corruption and Economic embezzlement and ABUCO -- Association Burundaise des Consommateurs/ Consumers Association of Burundi -- attest to this through research findings and other anti-corruption initiatives. Studies and surveys done by the Economic and Development Institute (IDEC) such as the Stratégie Nationales de Gouvernance et de Lutte contre la corruption, 2009 show that 50 percent of business people were asked to pay bribes for public services. 76 percent of NGOs, 66 percent of business people, 54 percent of civil servants and 29 percent of citizens reported a high frequency of bribery in the national police force.


The Rwandan government has undertaken several legal and policy measures aimed at tackling corruption within the public and private sectors. Rwanda has also ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC).

Rwanda established an Ombudsman's office in 2004 that monitors transparency and compliance to regulation in all governmental sectors. The Ombudsman has been instrumental in enforcing the government's declaration on zero tolerance against corruption. It regularly exposes cases of fraud, malpractice and corruption at the top, middle and bottom levels of the public sector.

This is evident through the stern action taken against a number of senior government officials implicated in corruption. In 2009, the Finance Director at the Presidency was suspended from office and sentenced to four years in prison following corruption allegations. He was further fined more than one billion Rwandan Francs ($1.72 million).

A former top civil servant in the infrastructure ministry was given a similar fine and a total of seven years in jail for involvement in corruption-related offences in government contracts. Elected officials have not been spared either, with over 20 of the 30 District Mayors in Rwanda removed from office for alleged mismanagement. The Ombudsman's office is also responsible for reviewing the revenue declarations submitted by top government officials including the president.

Against this backdrop the Transparency International-Kenya Executive Director, Samuel Kimeu says: "East African countries need to scrutinise their service delivery mechanisms with the objective of rooting out practices such as corruption that are impeding the accessibility of basic services. This will promote equality, development and the reduction of poverty in the region."