Bribes you have to pay ‘to survive’ in Kenya

Transparency International Kenya Executive Director Samuel Kimeu. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

The shocking revelation that two out of every 10 people in Kenya seeking the most basic of services such as medical attention are forced to part with a bribe is the clearest indicator of a catastrophic failure in the tactics employed to fight corruption.

A report by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) details how Kenyans are forced to part with bribes for services as reporting a crime to the police or even obtaining a national identity card.

The report also detailed how the size of bribes varied from one county to another, with Mandera in the north leading with the average bribe at $800 (Sh80,000).

Get sick

Despite medical attention being the most sought after service in the country according to the report, 20.7 per cent of those who get sick are asked to averagely part with a $18 (Sh1,866) bribe in order to be attended to.

Even worse is that 18.4 per cent of identity card applicants are asked to pay bribes averaging $7 (Sh700) while eight per cent of those who walk into police stations to report a crime have to cough up $44 (Sh4,430).

The report also reveals that Kenyans were being forced to part with some money, on average $2 (Sh200) to obtain burial permits in order to bury their loved ones.

Electricity bills

And the rot gets even grim with 0.8 per cent of those paying electricity bills having to give at least $50 (Sh5,000) in kickbacks while 13 in every 100 Kenyans seeking to get birth certificates have to pay $9 (Sh900) as a bribe to government officials.

“Medical services (24.9 per cent), title deed (16.3 per cent) application and replacement of IDs (10.3 per cent) are the most sought after services in the government ministries,” said the report pointing out that the most sought after services are coincidentally the ones with the highest incidents of bribery.

In October, an accident victim died after spending 18 hours in an ambulance as authorities at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) claimed they did not have a bed for him in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) only to be admitted after his cousin, a lawyer intervened.

Private sector

The case which brought forward the extent of extortionism in accessing government services is just one of the many that go unreported.

However, while a majority of Kenyans accuse the government of creating a conducive environment for corruption to thrive, the private sector through the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) say those issuing bribes should also be blamed.

“You cannot clap with one hand, it takes two people to make a corrupt deal,” Mr Pradeep Paunrana, the association’s chair told the Sunday Nation.

“As a country everyone is responsible and the whole public should stand and say they will not allow a system that favours others because if you go to a hospital and you are asked for a bribe you can, for example, shout and attract attention,” he said.

Relevant agencies

But despite Mr Pradeep’s view, the EACC reported that 50.5 per cent of people who had been asked for a bribe or witnessed corruption do not report due to ignorance, 21.7 per cent due to fear of victimisation while 20.9 per cent do not report due to inaction by relevant agencies.

According to the Sunday Nation analysis of the report, most of this corruption is taking place in the county governments.

In this regard, Mandera leads the pack, followed by Lamu at the coast at $563 (Sh56, 913) and Baringo in the Rift Valley at $358 (Sh36,116). Laikipia, Migori and Garissa follow with average bribes standing at $212 (Sh21,379), $198 (Sh20,000) and $150 (Sh15,192) respectively.

The survey

Respondents of the survey said governors are directly involved in the vice and receive kickbacks for every bribe paid to the county governments.

“People are afraid to report corruption cases because they are threatened by the county government through several ways like being denied budgetary allocations such as bursary allocation. The governor asks for Sh200,000 kick back from each ward,” said a respondent from Nakuru.

County chiefs have, however, dismissed the report by EACC with Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero saying: “The EACC has become a gang of extortionists being used to settle scores by political opponents of governors and other leaders.”

Ethnic group

“How do you expect it to be balanced as currently constituted when three quarters of investigators are drawn from one ethnic group, the Somali,” he said.

Council of Governors chairperson Peter Munya said the widespread corruption in counties was inherited from the national government and that they should not be blamed.

“The culture of bribe-taking is entrenched in the country. It did not start with devolution because most of our staff were inherited from national government,” he said.

The vice

On Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta called for a multifaceted approach and concerted efforts by all sectors to defeat the vice.

“Fighting corruption is not a battle that can be won by any singular individual or any singular sector. It must be multifaceted in how we approach it,” he said through State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu.

Different professional associations and the civil society service has been calling for the declaration of corruption as a national disaster.

Have failed

Transparency International (TI), which just last month ranked Kenya a low position 139 out of 168 in a list of the most corrupt countries in the world, blamed the authorities for letting corruption to reach the current levels where Kenyans have had to bribe t access free services that are supposed to be paid by their taxes.

“The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the Department of Public Prosecution and the Judiciary all bear collective responsibility for high corruption levels in the country. These three departments are responsible for investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating corruption cases and they have failed to deliver,” said TI Kenya Executive Director Samuel Kimeu.

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