KENYA - BUSTING CORRUPTION USING THE INTERNET
7 July 2000
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
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KENYA: BUSTING CORRUPTION USING THE INTERNET
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
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
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
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: email@example.com
* 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
"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
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
- 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
(source: IDG Net Top News Update)