NAIROBI, Kenya — Earlier this month, Kenya’s auditor, General Edward Ouko, released an audit of the government’s accounts from the 2013-2014 budget. Only 1.2 percent of the country’s $10 billion budget had been correctly accounted for.
More than $600 million couldn’t be accounted for — most likely pocketed by corrupt government officials. Ouko’s report caused massive outcry and showed how rampant corruption is in the Kenyan government.
This is a troubling issue for a number of reasons. More than 42 percent of the country lives below the poverty line. According to UNICEF, basic infrastructures, such as water sanitation, emergency services and medical care, are not available to many.
For many of the impoverished, learning that much of their government’s budget was misallocated, and mostly likely, as the Kenyans call corruption, “eaten,” it has to be very frustrating that they still don’t have access to basic necessities.
Corruption was the main topic of discussion during President Obama’s recent visit to the country. After his visit, the two countries announced that an expansive anti-corruption plan would be initiated by Kenya with the help of the U.S.
The agreement, which is called the “Joint Commitment to Promote Good Governance and Anti-Corruption in Kenya,” contains more than four articles and 29 sub-points. The plan is very comprehensive.
It provides an outline to increase transparency within all aspects of the Kenyan government. It also provides ideas about how to draft and implement code(s) of conduct as well as clear penalties for breaking them.
Many of these articles are derived from code(s) of conduct used by industry. For example, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is used by businesses to make their financial information transparent to the public.
Kenya has also agreed to implement the United Nation’s “Convention Against Corruption.” This lays the groundwork for monitoring and preventing the exchange of cash that’s been stolen.
Visit this link to the full joint commitment.
It is in Kenya’s best interest to rid their government of corruption. Kenya ranks in the bottom quarter of countries in the corruption perception index. This not only hurts their international reputation, but also hinders international investment opportunity.
According to an article by The Guardian, a number of foreign investors have come out publicly and said Kenya’s corruption detracted them financing there. British Foreign Secretary Phillip Howard said back in March that corruption is the number one factor holding Kenya back from achieving “double digit growth and creating jobs.”
By tackling corruption in its government, Kenya can improve the lives of its 44 million citizens by giving them the basic infrastructure they need and attract foreign investment that will further drive poverty reduction.
Kenya’s recent joint agreement with the U.S. is a start in the right direction.
– Kevin Meyers
Sources: The Guardian, Transparency, Unicef, White House