Corruption remains the mutative economic cancer that continues to erode meaningful gains Sub Saharan Africa is making in its march towards transformation, save for a tiny enclave of states that have put in place well-crafted mechanism to fight the vice.
Rwanda, in a widely reported narrative for the last 10 years, cemented its position early this year as the least corrupt economy in East Africa.
Other regional economies such as Kenya and Tanzania raved up their anti-corruption credentials in a bid to try play catch up in the anti-corruption game led by Rwanda.
The corruption perception index (CPI) released by Transparency International (TI) on Thursday ranks Rwanda 53rd in Africa, topping up the East Africa region as least corrupt economy.
Tanzania followed at 37th position in Africa followed by Kenya and Uganda in a tie at position 28th and Burundi bringing up the rear as most corrupt state in East Africa.
Kenya went on an anti-corruption overdrive led by President Uhuru Kenyatta in a far departure from shielding cartels of the vice that have chocked East Africa’s leading economy for the past 50 years.
In the last two years, Kenya arrested and arraigned in courts a coterie of senior public officials seen as corruption kingpins and their bag men.
Reports say that more than 500 people, among them senior government officials, principal secretaries and CEOs of state agencies, have been arrested, arraigned in court and charged with diverse criminal offences as a result of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s heightened war on corruption.
For instance, on July 22, 2019, the Kenyan director of public pprosecutions (DPP) ordered the arrest of and proffered charges against 28 senior government officials.
Among them was Henry Kiplagat Rotich and Kamau Thugge, respectively, the cabinet and principal secretaries of the Kenyan national treasury.
The Kenyan national treasury is considered a nerve centre of its body politics and by extension the foremost corruption drive way.
It was the very first time senior state treasury officers, in this case minister and PS, were brought in handcuffs in East Africa to face corruption charges while still in public office.
Also arraigned in the courts was the principal secretary of the Ministry of the East African Community, the CEO of the kerio valley development authority, a state corporation, and the director of CMC di Ravenna, an Italian company.
According to the DPP, the ground shaking investigations established that the charged officials flouted procurement rules and abused their oath of office in awarding or otherwise ensuring that CMC di Ravenna, a contractor, secured the contract for the construction of two dams in Kenya’s rift valley region in a botched deal worth an estimated US$600 million.
Tanzania President, John Pombe Magufuli, known as the bulldozer of anti-corruption in East Africa, spearheaded efforts by reigning in run-away corruption.
However, the drive by Kenya and Tanzania is something that Rwanda had perfected and has been polishing up for the last 20 years.
Rwanda, under President Paul Kagame, is widely known as a country where political integrity has served to ensure that political decision making serves public interest thereby curbing opportunities for corrupt deals.
It is therefore not surprising that TI’s 2019 analysis exposes Africa’s corruption soft underbelly; which is that money influences political power.
Due to widespread poverty and fragmented nature of politics, fractured along tribal entities, African political elites are known for hijacking the state apparatus through well-orchestrated schemes such as voter bribery during election periods.
It is well known that electioneering is big business in Africa.
Through such malpractices, Sub Sahara Africa has continued seeing corrupt leaders who once elected in shoddy means, continue with abetting and shielding the vice, which, over time, has mutated into a cancer that has eroded the social economic fabric of most promising states such as Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Africa, TI says in its latest analysis, can progress if it has capacity to curb big money interference in politics.
The report highlights the relationship between politics, big money and corruption.
“Unregulated flows of big money in politics also make public policy vulnerable to undue influence,” the report stated adding that, “countries with strong enforcement of campaign finance regulations have lower levels of corruption as measured by the CPI”.
TI says that, when policy makers listen only to wealthy or politically connected individuals and groups, they often do so at the expense of the citizens they serve.
In addition, TI says that promoting inclusive political decision-making are essential to curb corruption the way Rwanda has been doing for last the 20 years.
Rwanda is exemplary in this context where broadened consultation in political decision making has created lower levels of corruption, but the field is not yet cleared. There are still pockets of corruption cases in the system, despite a tough stance against the vise.
“To have any chances of ending corruption and improving people’s lives, we must tackle the relationship between politics and big money. All citizens must be represented in decision making”, says Patricia Moreira, the TI CEO.
Meanwhile, as bad as it is in Africa, gross bribery cases have been occurring in other parts of the world, be it in Europe, the Americas and Asia.
In 2018, Swedish telecoms giant, Ericsson, agreed to pay over US$1 billion to settle a foreign bribery
case over its 16-year cash-for contracts campaign in China (41), Djibouti (30), Kuwait (40), Indonesia (40) and Vietnam (37). This is the second largest fine paid to US authorities.
Following the money laundering scandal at Danske Bank, the largest bank in Denmark (87), major banks like Swedbank in Sweden (85) and Deutsche Bank in Germany (80), were reportedly investigated in 2019 for their role in handling suspicious payments from high-risk non-resident clients, mostly from Russia (28), through Estonia (74).