Corruption: Are East African leaders doing enough?

Saturday August 18 2018

Ongoing demolitions targeting buildings built using irregularly acquired certification or built on road reserves and wetlands in Nairobi. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NMG


Rattled by runaway corruption, leaders in the region have instituted measures that, if implemented, would see better ratings of their countries in future corruption indices.

So far, only Rwanda has fared well in anti-corruption ratings, emerging number 48 out of 180 in the 2017 Transparency International index.

Tanzania, where President John Magufuli started his term in office in 2015 with an anti-corruption drive, was in position 103, with Kenya at 143, Uganda 151, Burundi 157 and South Sudan 179.

Observers attribute the entrenchment of corruption in the region to lack of political will, noting that there is no shortage of laws to deal with it.

In Rwanda, where President Paul Kagame has taken a leading role in the clampdown on the corrupt, senior government officials have been convicted.

Just last week, President Kagame sent an entire unit of the Ministry of Health packing over allegations of inefficiency and corruption in some cases. Some of the officials are facing charges in court.


Political will

The laws in Rwanda have facilitated government agencies fighting the vice by even making it possible to tap suspects’ phones to obtain evidence.

While this has been controversial because of the potential for misuse by government agents to deal with dissent and invade people’s privacy, the prosecutors attribute their stellar performance in the courts to it.

In Tanzania, President Magufuli has contributed to remarkable progress in government efficiency, going after corrupt public officials ruthlessly. His modus operandi, though seen as authoritarian, has been credited with the plugging of revenue leaks, reduction in cases of tax evasion and general efficiency in the public sector.

When he took office, he sacked senior officials at the Tanzania Revenue Authority, suspended the director-general of the Tanzania Ports Authority over non-payment of import taxes, and sacked the director-general of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau, due to the slow pace of the fight against corruption.

In Kenya, with political will, the emboldened leadership of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations are causing public officials sleepless nights with an anti-corruption crusade that has seen senior civil servants and politicians charged.

A multi-agency team, comprising the police, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Intelligence Service and Director of Public Prosecutions has tightened the noose around graft suspects.

A team of investigators has been assembled to work with DPP Noordin Haji to investigate and prepare watertight cases for prosecution of the corrupt.

Once the suspects are charged in court, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission promptly initiates the process of attaching their properties and bank accounts.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and senior politicians both in government and opposition have given their blessing to the war, which goes beyond mismanagement of public resources to even land transactions.

Several prime properties in Nairobi have been demolished in a crackdown on buildings on riparian land whose approvals were done through corruption as the EACC assets recovery team works with the National Intelligence Service to trace properties registered under the suspects’ names.

President Kenyatta has given the energised war on corruption a thumbs-up, saying recently that the campaign has cost him many friends, who sought protection from him against prosecution and loss of their properties.

In Uganda, critics of President Yoweri Museveni say that the government agencies’ hands have been tied by the tendency of corruption suspects to run to the presidency for protection. Even the inspectorate of government, which deals with vice, has expressed its frustration with the state of affairs.