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Why corruption is not only yardstick to gauge our devolved units

By X N Iraki | April 3rd 2018
Council of Governors meeting from all the 47 counties during a consultative conference at the Council of Governors headquarters in Nairobi, on 31/08/2017.(BY PIUS CHERUIYOT/Standard)

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) report ranking the counties on corruption, which closely mirrors Transparency International (TI) ranking of countries, was full of surprises.

Let us try and soberly dissect the ranking. First, I want to see the questionnaire used to collect this data. How were the respondents selected?  When were they interviewed?

The EACC would do us great service if they gave us details of their respondents, the sample sizes, their respondents’ age, level of education, religion and employment status.

They should also provide us with marital status, political affiliation and any other data that affect our perception of corruption or increase our propensity to be corrupt.

Giving out such data plus the margin of error is good research practice. This was the soft underbelly of opinion polls in the run-up to our elections. 

Our Supreme Court ruled that the process is as important as the end results.

The website of EACC was inaccessible by the time I was writing this piece on Good Friday. Did EACC separate corruption in the private and public sector?  Is corruption just about taking bribes? 

What of moral corruption e.g. cheating in exams or seeking sexual favours?

Was that captured in the index? What of corruption initiated by the bribe giver or construed to be a gift?

EACC should have gone further and explained more about the ranking.

Why are some counties more corrupt than others. In research, we love interpretation more than numbers.

Talking with men and women who have worked in various counties seem to question this report. Am not defending corruption, it gnaws on the moral fabric of the society, penalises hard workers and holds economic progress hostage.

The fallout from this report is not harmless entertainment; reputations are at stake, investments and even pride.

Imagine telling someone you are from Murang’a. Guess the next comment. That is why the methodology of coming up with this ranking should be made public for us to interrogate.

If I repeated the ranking, would the list remain the same?

But there is more to ranking, what role has ICT played in reducing corruption?

It would be interesting to find out what Kenyans think about Huduma Centres in reducing graft. What about paying rates and other services online? What of the possible introduction of blockchains?


My contention goes beyond ranking.  Why do we like to highlight negativity? Why was the headline not, “Lamu the cleanest county” instead of Murang’a is the most corrupt county?  I am not from Murang’a to defend the county.

This ranking seems to suggest that counties are basket cases. Does bad publicity always lead to better performance?

Will name and shame energise counties and departments like police to curb corruption? What are the rewards for the less corrupt? Our lackluster approach to corruption in Kenya will make it a way of life and hard to eliminate.

 My guess is that if we dealt with corruption, our GDP growth rate would easily reach 10 per cent and lift lots of people from poverty.

Now that we know the corrupt counties from EACC list, it would be fair for EACC to tell us what they are doing to turn the tide on this vice. That matters more than ranking.  

One of the most effective ways to deal with corruption is to empower voters. Suppose voters recalled their leaders in counties objectively ranked as most corrupt?

What of perpetrators who enjoy “protection” and sacking them would be politically costly? Am sure you have heard of “our people are being finished” when the corrupt are shown the door. Who will bell the cat?  

Could learning to earn money before learning to use it reduce corruption?

If we valued work, espoused by American Protestant work ethic, then we also need to realise that money is just a medium of exchange.

Corruption was never a way of life in our traditional societies. Modernity has eaten into our traditional values. No wonder educated and pseudo-educated people tend to be more corrupt.

Modern religions seem to have failed to be a bulwark again the scourge of corruption. Which country is ranked higher on corruption by TI? China, which is officially atheist or more religious Kenya? EACC did well to rank if its methodology is explained.

But we need rankings on good things that happen in the counties. Which county last year recorded the fastest economic growth? 

Which county has the highest graduate per 1,000 persons? Which county created most jobs per 1,000 people?  Which county planted most trees?

Which county is most welcoming to foreigners? Which one received more tourists? Which devolved unit is the happiest?


Such rankings would create competition among the counties and lead to faster economic growth and possibly reduce corruption. After all, scarcity fuels corruption, the reason poor countries are more prone to corruption.

In Kenya, it seems the other way with poor counties being less corrupt. When devolution came, it was supposed to make counties the centres of economic growth, not corruption.

That dream should not be deferred.  It is no wonder, counties are homogeneous, and have not differentiated themselves first by exploiting resources at their disposal.  

 Since we graciously copied US Constitution, with titles like governors and senators, it is time we became more like the USA with our California, New York, Kentucky,  Mississippi and other states each known for its uniqueness like movie making, agriculture, tourism and so on.

Differentiating counties based on their score on corruption index is a national shame.



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