October 29, 2012
A year after the launch of an anti-bribery website in Kenya, governance activists say the site has achieved measurable success in the fight against corruption.
Non-profit organisation Wamani Trust launched the "I Paid a Bribe" website -- www.ipaidabribe.or.ke -- last November to provide a platform for individuals to anonymously share their stories and track incidents of corruption in the country's 47 counties, according to the founder Antony Ragui.
More than 1,000 cases were reported in which citizens paid more than 36 million shillings ($423,000) in bribes over the one year period, according to the website.
In April, the initiative launched a mobile application to allow more Kenyans to report bribery incidences.
"SMS reporting functionality will allow people to report bribes in real time," Ragui said according to the HumanIPO blog. "We can use a GPS mapping system to pinpoint where bribes are being paid.”
Nairobi leads in the country in paid bribes, followed by Mombasa and Nakuru counties. Citizens reported the most incidents of corruption among the police at 265, followed by municipal councils at 109 incidents, according to the site.
Bribes in the passports and IDs department have the highest value at over 1 million shillings ($12,000) in bribes collected from 34 reported incidents, according to respondents.
In a post on October 26th, one respondent said he was forced to pay 1,000 shillings ($12) to municipal council officials for talking on his phone while crossing Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi.
In another posting on October 27th, a respondent said he refused to pay 2,000 shillings ($23) to police in Nairobi's Kasarani neighbourhood for a traffic offence and was taken to court where he was fined 10,000 shillings ($117).
The website also provides space for respondents to report positive interactions with officials, where no bribes were requested or paid.
While the site has achieved measurable success, analysts told Sabahi that it has the potential to further tackle the vice in line with the country's Vision 2030 goals.
"The site offers a mechanism of measuring the level of corruption index in each county and institutions and the cost involved," said Abdullahi Mohamed Abdi, executive director of Womankind Kenya, a non-profit organisation based in North Eastern Province that deals with good governance.
The website also provides a platform for those fighting graft to come up with policies and actions to tackle the problem because it pinpoints the institutions and culprits involved, he told Sabahi.
"At the moment, the site is only offering statistics," Abdi said. "Many people may get discouraged if no action is taken despite their reporting and in the long run those running the site can provide room for naming those involved."
According to global civil society organisation Transparency International, about 93% of corruption cases are not reported, with the majority Kenyans stating that they lack faith in the available anti-corruption systems.
Furthermore, bribery continues to remain high in the country. In a 2012 Transparency International survey, Kenya ranked third among bribery-prone countries in East Africa, moving from fourth place in 2011. Uganda registered the highest bribery levels in the region, followed by Tanzania.
Cyprian Nyamwamu, chief executive officer of the National Convention Executive Council (NCEC), told Sabahi that with rapidly increasing internet usage in the country, technology will be a potent weapon against graft.
Nyamwamu said the government needs to utilise initiatives like the I Paid a Bribe website to reign in corruption. The site offers residents a forum to speak out and the government should listen and take action, he said.
"The worst scenario that can happen in any vice is to remain silent because it makes it a norm," Nyamwamu told Sabahi. "There may be weaknesses in the system involved in fighting corruption, but speaking out creates general awareness."
Garissa County Commissioner Mohammed Maalim told Sabahi that the government was making some progress against graft and was embracing information technology as a tool to fight corruption.
"We have realised that information technology is a new frontier to fight the vice and we are making use of it," Maalim said. "While we encourage people to come forward, we are also keen to scrutinise some of the information that may be malicious."
He said the efforts are made possible by reforms in the judiciary and police and by the attention of good governance activists. He called on citizens to provide information to help officials investigate allegations of corruption so that those responsible can be held accountable.
Emphasising the importance of the efforts, Maalim said the UN Millennium Development Goals and the country's own Vision 2030 will be difficult to achieve without eradicating corruption.
Despite the challenges, Garissa resident Halima Sheikh Maad said a genuine government initiative and co-operation could end the vice.
"With corruption there is a giver and a receiver," she told Sabahi. "From a simple analysis of the I Paid a Bribe website, the traffic department in the police is the biggest offender, but motorists have a crucial role to play to avoid falling prey."
For instance, vehicle owners should ensure that their vehicles are roadworthy and their documents are up to date, and that they strictly observe traffic rules and respect the law, she said.
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