Businesses & Financial News

Bribe paying still rampant in public offices

Steve Umidha

Having to pay a bribe for an official document like renewal of a passport or a driver’s license has become a reality for most Kenyans who more often than not are inclined to offer kickbacks to holders of State officials in order to ‘speed up the wheels.’

Small bribes, commonly termed as ‘facilitation payments,’ are typically demanded in everyday transactions, notoriously in the immigration and Ardhi House offices and nearly all crossing border points.

And now, there is a growing recognition that facilitation payments are not easily separated from other forms of bribe and increasingly, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this week issued stinging statements on Kenya’s corruption tendency after Kenyans on social media went on rampage demanding accountability on public resource expenditure.

“We will continue to publish the status of all corruption cases on a public website in a timely manner as well as monitor corruption cases in the High Court Anti-Corruption Division and Anti-Corruption Magistrate’s Court,” the international lender said in its 121-page document on Wednesday.

The IMF had on Tuesday, April 6, reaffirmed its commitment to a $2.34 billion (Sh255 billion) loan to Kenya to address debt vulnerabilities and bolster the next phase of Covid-19 pandemic responses.

This is after a petition opposing the loan gathered momentum with more than 200,000 people having signed up.

Kenyans expressed reservations against the latest loan by the IMF arguing that it would be embezzled at a time when the country is already struggling with a huge debt burden.

Corruption remains one of the biggest threats for the Jubilee management, most of which occur in situations where a public official demands a bribe for a service to which a person or company is entitled.

Bribery and fraud, according to a number of surveys, is the single greatest obstacle preventing Kenya from achieving its enormous potential. It drains hundreds of billions of shillings a year from the country’s economy, stymies development, and weakens the social contract between the government and its now irate people.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in January blatantly revealed that Kenya losses close to Sh 2 billion through graft every day.

“The money they steal daily is over the said Sh 2 billion of the referendum. These people (anti-BBI) are disingenuous. Let us focus on what will protect you and your children. I am not really forcing you to be with me but do not trust anyone blindly,” he said while speaking about the issue of the Building Bridges Initiative – an agenda he hopes will address such ills in his post presidency.

Figures by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, estimate that Kenya is losing an estimated Sh 608.0 Billion or 7.8 per cent of Kenya’s GDP to corruption annually.

Reducing the vice is therefore crucial for the country’s development according to the IMF which fingered Kenya’s judiciary among other authorities for their incapacity to tackle the runaway vice.

“To ensure the effective prosecution and sanction of corruption and economic crimes as required under the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, we will continue to enhance domestic coordination among law enforcement agencies through the Multi Agency framework,” said the IMF in a statement.

Kenya’s competitiveness is held back by high corruption levels that penetrate every sector of the economy.  Its weak judicial system and frequent demands for bribes by public officials are believed to have increased business costs for foreign investors – while widespread tax evasion hinders Kenya’s long-term economic growth, and fraud in public procurement is rampant.

Adequate enforcement of Kenya’s anti-corruption framework is an issue according to the IMF, a problem that has resulted in weak and corrupt public institutions.

“In order to prevent the misuse of companies to launder the proceeds of crimes, including corruption, we will ensure that all companies are required to submit accurate, complete and updated beneficial ownership information to the Registrar of Companies by end-January 2021,” noted the IMF.

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