The theme of challenges related to fighting corruption in East Africa is what dominated the plenary session held during the launch of the 2011 edition of the East African Bribery Index (EABI), held in Dar es Salaam one week ago.
This event was well attended by government officials, civic organizations’ representatives, academicians, journalists, participants from donor community as well as from some embassies based in Dar es Salaam.
Transparency International Chapters of East African Countries were represented as well and made brief presentations about corruption trends in their environment. The writer of this column had an opportunity to witness proceedings of this important occasion.
The East African Bribery Index is described as a “governance tool developed to measure bribery levels in the private and public sectors in the region”. This time around the survey involved 12,924 respondents, selected through random sampling across all administrative regions in all the countries in the exercise conducted between February and May 2011.
Of course the most important aspect of the EABI is in regard to its findings. These are both scaring and sobering, indicating that the corruption monster continues to rare its ugly and dangerous head in the region, to the disappointment of those at the receiving end of this socio-economic menace.
Burundi leads the pack with the corruption prevalence score of 37.9%, up from 36.7% in 2010. Uganda ranks second, with a rating of 33.9% while our land of apparent peace is in the third position with a rating of 31.6%. Kenya occupies the 4th position, with a score of 28.8%.
Rwanda proves to be the least corrupt, with a mere 5.1% rating, leaving the pack behind by an appreciable low corruption prevalence score indicator. Hence, with the exception of Kagame’s Rwanda, the rest of East African countries are victims of the corruption virus,
Another disturbing finding is that some institutions which are notorious for involvement in corruption, going by observations recorded in previous surveys, are still steeped in corruption, thus confirming the time tested saying that old habits die hard.
Culprits here include police, judiciary, immigration department and to some extent prisons. The baffling aspect in this case is that these are institutions which society banks on to fight the vice under discussion.
It seems the questionable principle of set a thief to catch a thief does not apply here, as bribe takers in the society and officials in institutions supposed to fix the problem tend to become partners in crime. A dangerous trend, indeed!
Yet another disturbing observation is the fact that citizens in the region encounter corruption at its worst when seeking vital services and requirements in the sectors of water, health, education and even shelter.
One may say the victims are literally cornered and blackmailed into a situation where they either give bribes and survive or be adamant and face the music. This should not be allowed to continue.
But all the five countries are shouting to the roof top about fighting corruption, and are parading their anti-corruption policies, laws and even institutions as proof of their determination to deal a blow to this social enemy. Why then aren’t things changing for the better?
Inadequate political commitment to fight the vice as well as general poor governance, are some setbacks highlighted at the EABI launch, as participants singled out Rwanda as an exception. Other East African Countries should borrow a leaf from Rwanda and walk their loud talk.
Henry Muhanika is a Media Consultant firstname.lastname@example.org