KENYA - BUSTING CORRUPTION USING THE INTERNET

7 July 2000

Top Story

Corruption in the public sector is money diverted into someone's pocket that

should have been spent on development. Corruption happens everywhere but is

particularly endemic in Africa. Certain African countries can lay claim to

being world leaders in this field. Large-scale contracts (especially in the

field of telecomms) controlled by government are particularly open to the

unscrupulous "taking a cut". To discourage it one business leader - John

Gage of Sun Systems - is suggesting government makes transparency - using

the internet - a feature of how they operate. However petty corruption at

all levels discourages foreign investment. This week John Onunga describes a

project set up in Kenya that encourages people to report this small-scale

graft electronically.

 

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KENYA: BUSTING CORRUPTION USING THE INTERNET

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The Information Technology Standards Association (ITSA) of Kenya has

launched an Electronic Graft Management pilot project whose aim is to

increase public awareness and encourage public participation in fighting

corrupt practices. The pilot project intends to use the Internet and e-mail

as the channel for communication by the public for reporting. The idea is to

introduce the use of an internet hotline, popularly know as online reporting

mechanism. For the pilot project the existing Internet infrastructure that

currently covers six major towns will be used. Existing Internet Cafés and

e-Touch centers in these towns will be used, by the public for reporting, at

no cost. In addition to this, two remote locations which do not have the

required infrastructure will also be set up to test the feasibility of

connecting the larger rural areas.

 

Electronic Governance (eGovernance) has three components: Electronic

Government (eGovernment), Electronic Democracy (eDemocracy) and Electronic

Business (eBusiness). Electronic Government (eGovernment) is intended to

improve the delivery of government services to the citizens using electronic

means. In many countries, one of the biggest impediments to delivery of

government services is entrenched graft. Corruption reduces the efficiency

of service delivery, slows down the economy and discourages foreign

investments.

 

In Kenya, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority (KACA) has been established to

fight corruption. KACA has to date done a commendable job, however, they

have mainly been dealing with historical, large-scale corruption cases.

This has not been by choice but because KACA has not been getting all the

information it needs, especially on the everyday petty corrupt practices

country-wide, due to limited channels of access by the public. KACA is

currently using telephone, paper mail and one electronic mail - in reality,

the major channel available to the public is the telephone. Many citizens

have shied away from volunteering information to KACA because of lack of

privacy.

 

ITSA's pilot Electronic Graft Management project will offer a corruption

reporting facility in six towns, two remote locations and the media will

form the source points of information which will be routed to the Electronic

Graft Management (EGM) Centre. The EGM Centre will filter this information

electronically and forward/channel it to the relevant authorities for

action. The partnerships are currently being formulated between ITSA and the

relevant authorities.

 

The greatest challenge facing the implementation of this project is "How the

public will be made to report genuine corruption voluntarily". ITSA

proposes to use highly motivated youth volunteers to inform the public in

the selected areas about the availability of the online channel. The youth's

campaign will be backed up by the news media. The awareness campaign will

target groups such as teachers and traders associations, NGOs, community

based organizations, churches and religious organizations, as well as

private and public institutions. There will also be door-to-door campaign

(offices, shops, etc.). To be included in the awareness campaign will be the

experiences of the public, ease of access to the available cafés and ability

to use them.

 

The EGM Centre will monitor the volume of corruption reporting on a monthly

basis. An increase in the volume over time will indicate that the number of

people using this channel is increasing, which in turn implies increased

public awareness, and trust in this channel. The EGM Centre will also

solicit statistical feedback from the implementing bodies on the actions

taken, and make it available to the public, to motivate them to continue

using the channel.

 

ITSA is looking for collaborators and donors to implement this pilot

project. The critical areas that will need donor funding include training of

the public to use the online channel, free Internet access to the public for

reporting and setting up of the remote telecentres.

 

Dr John Onunga is the Chair of Information Technology Standards Association

of Kenya and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical & Electronic

Engineering, University of Nairobi. P.O. Box 62994, Nairobi, Kenya.

Telephone: 254-2-719135 E-mail: isa@africaonline.co.ke

 

 

*   SUNS SYSTEMS' JOHN GAGE CALLS FOR INTERNET TRANSPARENCY

 

The Internet is increasing accountability and transparency not only among

businesses, but also governments, according to John Gage, Sun Microsystems's

chief researcher and director of its Science Office. Gage participated in a

panel discussion on transparency and accountability in the Internet economy

at the World Economic Forum held in Melbourne yesterday. Gage said that IT

and the Internet are particularly important in helping governments deal with

corruption.

 

"In countries where corruption is endemic, the costs of corruption are

passed on from the government to everyone, including the poor. Corruption in

the forms of incorrect fines that traffic police collect and the duties that

customs officers charge on goods entering their countries have been

impossible to monitor until now."

 

Governments need to push for more disclosure of their internal operations,

and the Internet is a vehicle to help them do this, Gage said.

"The Internet can make government transactions and procurements visible. It

will make public information on how governments' internal systems are using

funds, what they are buying and how much they are paying for it. The

Internet will enable governments to not only become more efficient, but to

deal with corruption."

 

The Internet will also have a big impact on the financial regulation areas.

The U.S. has a Governmental Accounting Standards Board which establishes

standards of state and local governmental accounting and financial

reporting, and a Financial Accounting Standards Board which seeks to improve

standards of financial accounting and reporting for the guidance and

education of the public. Financial reports from the government and the

financial sector are increasingly being made available on the Web.

Aside from governments, the Web is also making business operations more

transparent to investors and employees. For example, in the U.S. every

public company is required to disclose critical business, financial and

competitive details of their activities to the Securities and Exchange

Commission (SEC).

 

Investors in the past have had to pay $US50 for each page of information

they receive about their investments and the company they have investments

  1. But with the Web, they can access this information on company websites

as well as commercial information services like EDGAR Online.

Gage also cited a private site, Webb-site.com, which reports on Hong Kong

companies' business activities. Run by David Webb, a former investment

banker in Hong Kong, the site aims to increase the transparency and

efficiency of free markets and their participants, including companies,

governments, regulators and controlling shareholders, and promote the

participation of minority shareholders in corporate decision-making.

For companies that are operating across several countries, the Internet also

gives them a common platform of reporting across different countries.

 

Finally it has been announced that the Governance group of the World Bank

Institute has relaunched its website, the Governance & Anti-Corruption

Resource Center

http://www.wordlbank.org/wbi/governance/

(source: IDG Net Top News Update)