The recently released East African Bribery report 2013 by Transparency International is an attestation that bribery remains a challenge in the region. The citizens still encounter informal charges and levies as a pre-condition bribery. Despite governments in the region expending a lot of financial resources and legislative attention to combating corruption in recent years, the continuance of widespread bribery is a clear manifestation of deeper governance challenge. The reasonable conclusion is that these resources and efforts are not bearing fruit and a serious introspection on the current efforts is needed with a view to strengthening them as may be appropriate.
According to Noel Nkuruziza, President of ABUCO, the Consumers Association of Burundi and the local chapter for Transparency International, “Bribery remains a key challenge for East Africans to access public services.” He further noted that the inclusion of the Judiciary, Police and the Land Services in Burundi as one of the top ten most bribery prone institutions in East Africa and a similar ranking of the peer institutions in the other countries is particularly disturbing. “Law enforcement and justice system are very key institutions in this country and region, we should not let bribery compromise on this,” he warned.
In terms of country comparisons, Burundi worsened by moving two spots up to take position two with an aggregate of 18.6 percent as compared to the results last year. The aggregate likelihood of bribery was highest in Uganda where a citizen seeking state services encounters the highest likelihood of bribery at 26.8 percent. This was the same position held last year but with a higher aggregate. Tanzania 12.9 percent came in at third, while Kenya was fourth with 7.9 percent with each moving down a spot, again with relatively lower aggregates. Rwanda remains at position five but was the only country in the region that had an increased aggregate, 4.4 percent, up from 2.5 percent in 2012.
The police continued with their adverse performance across the region. This year, police took the first five bribery positions on sector and organizational ranking. This is the first time a single institution or sector performs uniformly poor across all the countries. Besides the Police, other sectors that came in the top ten in the ranking of sectors are Lands Services and Judiciary (Burundi), Lands services (Kenya) and Lands services (Uganda).
“The largest concern for us in Tanzania is that the services for which the bribes are being paid are at the core of basic survival of ordinary Tanzanians,” lamented Bubelwa Kaiza, the Executive Director, Transparency Forum, the host Coordinator in Tanzania.
Majority of respondents in Burundi said they paid bribes because it was expected, while in Kenya and Tanzania majority paid to hasten up service. In Rwanda, majority of the respondents said they paid bribes to access a service the respondent did not legally deserve while in Uganda, majority of the respondents admitted to paying bribes because it was the only way to access the service.
Across the region, reporting of bribery cases was generally low, with only about 10 percent of respondents who encountered bribery reporting. When asked why they did not report any of the bribery incidences they encountered, majority of the respondents in Burundi feared reprisals. Their Kenyan, Tanzanian and Ugandan counterparts said that they knew no action would be taken if they reported. In Rwanda, respondents said they did not report because they feared self-incrimination.
Samuel Kimeu, the Executive Director of the Transparency International chapter in Kenya noted his concern that even with all the investments that governments in the region have put into various anti- corruption entities, citizens are not utilizing the reporting mechanisms. “Of particular interest is that citizens do not seem to trust their governments to respond to the reports on corruption. We need to win citizen confidence if any of our efforts were to succeed,” added Mr. Kimeu.