Graft becoming norm as civil servants oil the vice

When Traffic police officers from Matuu police station in Machakos were arrested for an allegation of taking bribes from motorists along the Thika-Garissa highway. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Security, relief food, water and health services are among the most essential services.

Yet, to get these in Kenya, chances are high that one would have to pay a bribe. 

To make it worse, the average bribe size has gone up over the years, increasing sharply by 70 per cent to Sh11,625 in 2023 compared to Sh6,865 in 2022, according to a new report by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC). 

This, according to anti-corruption chiefs, is alarming as it shows public servants have become accustomed to demanding bribes before they offer a service while Kenyans have gotten used, to the extent it is becoming ingrained in Kenya’s way of life. 

In the report, Kenyans fingered the Ministry of Interior and Coordination, the Police Service and county health departments as the most corrupt institutions in the country.

“In the National Ethics and Corruption Survey (NECS) 2023 Report, 60 percent of the respondents were dissatisfied with integrity, transparency and accountability in public service delivery in Kenya,” said Twalib Mbarak, chief executive of EACC.

“Corruption was ranked the fourth most pressing problem facing the country after high cost of living, unemployment, and poverty. Overall, 34.4 percent of respondents who sought government services were asked to pay a bribe, with 28.3 percent of the respondents paying.”

According to the survey, 47.1 per cent of Kenyans interviewed cited the Interior ministry as most corrupt. Second is Health (13.2 per cent) followed by the Transport (5.8 per cent).

Government departments and agencies perceived to be most prone to corruption were Police (60.6 per cent), the Immigration Department (4.4 per cent) and Registrar of Persons (four per cent).

Within the counties, the most corruption-prone departments were county health services (39.1 percent), county transport (11.9 percent) and trade development and regulation (10 percent).

Traffic police, county health department and regular police are the three most bribery-prone public institutions. There is a likelihood that each time a service is sought in the Traffic police department, county health department and in the Regular Police one is likely to be asked for a bribe,” said the report.

“Majority of respondents (57.3 per cent) perceived the corruption level to be high in the country. The main reason given by 24.7 percent of the respondents is the high cost of living,” said the EACC report.

In relation to services where one is highly likely to be asked for a bribe, registration of a business and applying for a Teachers Service Commision (TSC) number topped the list.

Shockingly, even Kenyans seeking relief food were asked to pay bribes. 

The report noted that the biggest cause of corruption is greed (42.8 percent), with public servants eager to make a quick shilling while those paying the bribe also eager to have decisions, including award of lucrative tenders, made in their favour. Ordinary Kenyans who desire quick services are also fueling the corruption. 

Other major causes of corruption, according to the report, are poverty (4.9 per cent) and culture (3.4 per cent, the latter pointing to a situation where culture has slowly crept into the way of life among Kenyans and becoming accepted. 

The report noted that the leading effects of corruption are “hampered economic growth (24.4 percent), poor living standards (17.8 percent) and increase in the cost of living (15.1 percent).”

According to EACC, Kenyans seeking employment, most of them young people, paid the largest bribes at Sh163,260. 

EACC also found out that service seekers paid the largest bribes to the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) at Sh81,801, also mostly likely Kenyans seeking documents to get jobs in public transport. NTSA is followed by the Judiciary where service seekers paid Sh49,611 and then Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) where Kenyans paid bribes of Sh40,000.

In counties’ rankings, the residents of West Pokot County paid the largest bribes at Sh56,695, ahead of Nairobi (Sh37,678) and Murang’a (Sh18,378). This is despite West Pokot County being among the poorest counties, with a Gross County Product (GCP) – which is the total value of goods and services produced by the county – of Sh84.99 billion as of 2022. 

David Oginde, chairman EACC, said despite the fight against corruption facing major challenges, there have been some gains, including the recovery of ill-gotten wealth of almost Sh24 billion and also averting some Sh34.49 billion that could have been lost through corruption over the last five years. 

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