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Adopt new ways of interpreting official corruption in Kenya

By Gilbert Muyumbu | October 17th 2018

Transparency International (TI-Kenya) produces annual reports that interpret official corruption using a formula that ranks it on the basis of where it happens in government institutions. For instance, the Police Service is always the most corrupt public institution in Kenya, followed by the Ministry of Lands.

Why is it that the same institutions are ranked the most corrupt, year in year out? What is common among those institutions? What predisposes them to corruption? And why is it that solutions prescribed for them are failing? Unfortunately, the data on corruption as currently provided by TI and other anti-corruption entities, including the EACC, do not help to answer these questions.

A new system of understanding and categorising corruption and what causes it is therefore needed. It should be broad enough to capture trends of corruption across vast swathes of official power, but also specific enough to provide recommendations that can be used to eradicate the vice.

Mapping power in Kenya in accordance with what it does would provide for such a new system of understanding and categorising corruption.

Such mapping would produce categories comprising regulatory power, executing power, legislative power, representative power, oversight power, judicial power and prosecutorial power. Regulatory power would sit in most entities charged with governing different aspects of public life.

Legislative arm

Executing power would mostly be exercised in executing public initiatives and projects. Legislative power would obviously be held by the legislative arm of the Government, including county assemblies.

This arm would exercise the oversight and representative power, whereas the Judiciary would be in charge of judicial power.

This categorisation should help to keep these sites of public power separate. Those wielding regulatory power should not be the same ones wielding oversight power.

Having the same entity wield more than one of these categories of power is to expose the country to corruption, and as such, this new categorisation should ensure that separation is deliberately imposed on all public entities.

Second, these categories should be ranked in accordance with which one is the most prone to corruption. Based on evidence so far, although corruption is pervasive across all the categories of power, it would seem that the most prone to corruption are regulatory and executing power. Tackling the weaknesses that predispose them to corruption means identifying where they exactly reside, and working to set common rules for them that reduce their predilection for abuse.

Game changer

Oversight, prosecutorial, judicial and legislative powers sit in only a few sites that are easy to map and contain. For instance, oversight power sits in only three sites – the Senate, the National Assembly and the 47 county assemblies. To managing corruption in these sites, one only needs to open them to scrutiny through public participation.

Prosecutorial power, on the other hand, sits in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP). As the recent changes in the ODPP showed, the type of personnel in charge of the office can be the game changer in terms of reducing the abuse of that power.

To insulate prosecutorial power from personnel limitations, perhaps there is a need to have the office holders given annual targets, failing which they would be recalled.

Regulatory and executing power would, however, require a totally different approach, given how dispersed they are in the country’s governance system. Tackling corruption in regulatory power would require that the multitudes of the sites of regulatory power are all mapped.

Once such mapping has been done, they should be placed under multiple regimes of control. One such control would be annual lifestyle audits.

If within a year of one acquiring regulatory power they have wealth that they cannot rationally explain, this should lead to prosecution.

For executing power, the best way to tackle abuse would be to democratise it.

This would happen if all projects initiated by those wielding executing power have a broad-based management committee composed of those expected to benefit from it.

If a water project is being constructed in a community, it should have the beneficiaries on the committee to provide oversight on how it is executed.

Mr Muyumbu is a researcher on accountability in Kenya.

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