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Take personal, collective action to stop plunder of public funds

By Judy Njino | Dec 14th 2021 | 3 min read

Having observed the International Anti-Corruption Day on December 9, it is time to renew commitment to fight corruption. The war against corruption has made a substantial contribution to the ongoing economic transformation, reinforcing Africa’s dedication to attaining equitable and sustainable development as envisioned in Africa’s Agenda 2063.

But with such great ambition, are corruption levels decreasing at the pace needed? According to the 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International, Kenya's score of 31 out of 100 is lower than the sub-Saharan average of 32 and the global average of 43. A score of less than 50 shows significant levels of public sector corruption, presenting an almost obvious picture of how graft has confounded this country.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission estimates that Kenya’s economy loses an average of Sh700 billion each year owing to corruption. This effectively undermines our aspirations to ensure all citizens enjoy a high quality of life by the year 2030.

Two types of corruption are rampant in the business landscape; grand corruption that involves collusive dealings among government officials who exploit opportunities that are presented and the coercive demand-side of corruption, propagated by those who demand and accept bribes, especially affecting the small and medium enterprises.  

Besides the apparent substantial economic damage that grand corruption causes, the weakening of governance and negative impact on the lives of citizens deprived of service delivery, the active participation of highly influential individuals causes the most harm because it gives corruption a veneer of tolerance and makes it a norm.  

The UN Global Compact recognises that taking coordinated action towards the health of people and planet offers many business opportunities and is essential for protecting human rights, ensuring no one is left behind. With less than nine years left to meet Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development, we need systemic change to guarantee resources required for vital public services, including healthcare and education, are not misappropriated.

The theme for this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day underlines the rights and responsibilities of each person to speak against corruption. This is especially critical as Kenya heads into an election year whereby transparency and accountability will be required to uphold democracy.

How can we ensure a world of work devoid of corruption? First, creating a culture of integrity and openness – where ethical challenges resulting from conducting business in a corrupt environment are freely addressed. Secondly, embracing a collective action approach where private sector joins hands with government and civil society helps individual businesses become more effective in their approaches and reduces opportunities for retaliation. 

Global Compact Network Kenya continues to promote the Code of Ethics for Business in Kenya – a collective action initiative in partnership with Kenya Private Sector Alliance and Kenya Association of Manufacturers. By signing onto the code, businesses are committing to treating their stakeholders with respect, to running their operations with responsibility, to acting in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations and to be actively involved in corruption prevention. Together, these businesses form an ethical community of champions who are playing their part in creating a clean and safe environment where every business has an equal chance at succeeding. 

As we prepare to ring in the new year, we must understand and embrace our individual and collective roles and responsibilities to say no to corruption. Now more than ever, business leaders need to act with ethical leadership and integrity. Above all, we call on the private sector to remain vigilant and support a unified front that ensures we recover stronger and better. 

Ms Njino is Executive Director, Global Compact Network Kenya. [email protected]

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