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Kenya steps up ‘war’ on corruption as president warns of economic damage

Kenya’s president has launched a new strategic plan by the country’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to “promote good governance and to scale up the war against corruption”.

Uhuru Kenyatta said the five-year plan, launched on 18 March, was needed because corruption is “discouraging domestic and foreign investors – and raises the cost of doing business”.

Key measures in the plan would lead to an “intensification” of investigations into tracing and recovering corruptly acquired public assets and “widening the scope of preventive measures to every level of government”, Kenyatta said.

The president added that “mega corruption has transnational aspects” which meant countries in the region should also step up collaboration. He pledged to use his chairmanship of the East African Community (EAC) – the regional intergovernmental organisation of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – to ensure that a protocol on combating and preventing corruption is ratified by all EAC nations.

As of 2009, the EAC had a combined gross domestic product of $74.5 billion. However, Kenyatta said the ability of countries to achieve their “full economic growth potential” was being prevented “not by a lack of money or infrastructure, but lack of integrity, which has led to corruption”.

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chairperson Mumo Matemu said: “The commission is alive to the fact that corruption remains a big threat to the well-being of our nation. A show of resolve by all Kenyans to fight corruption is therefore necessary in order to promote Kenya’s economic growth and sustainable development.”

Matemu said the commission plans to “invest heavily in modern technology” such as building capacity for undercover operations and establishing a forensic science laboratory. In addition, the commission plans to open offices in all Kenyan counties and have a presence at all of the country’s borders and entry points.

In its annual report for 2012-13, the commission said it had investigated a total of 3,355 complaints of alleged corruption – 1,423 of which were within its mandate (46% of total reports received). The commission said complaints included allegations of bribery, abuses of office, embezzlement of public funds and public procurement “irregularities”.

In addition, the commission completed 27 asset-tracing inquiries worth 16.38 billion Kenyan shillings (about $185 million) in respect of public assets that had been acquired illegally. The commission said it also conducted “corruption disruption activities” that averted losses equivalent to some $636m.

However, the commission said the number of complaints received in 2012-13 were down 36% compared to the previous year, “which might be attributed” to the establishment of institutions such as the Commission on Administrative Justice.

According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2013, published last December, corruption in Kenya remains high despite concerted efforts to tackle the problem. The index ranked Kenya at position 136 out of 177 countries and territories surveyed, with a score of 27 on a scale of 0 to 100.

Professional services company KPMG said in its country profile outlook for Kenya for 2012-16 that backing for the country from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), supported by a $760m extended credit facility, “remains on track”. KPMG added: “Although continued IMF backing will encourage support from other donors, corruption and weak governance will continue to strain relations with external backers and deter investment.”

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