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December 9, 2021

Joint Op-ed for International Anti-Corruption Day

Joint Op-ed for International Anti-Corruption Day

By Eric Kneedler, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires, a. i., and Jane Marriott, British High Commissioner

This year’s International Anti-Corruption Day comes at a crucial moment.  In many countries, we have all seen the erosion of democracy, and the tarnishing of citizens’ trust in institutions, independent media, and transparent governments.  As a world-wide community, we can work together to live the words of President Biden, “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident.”

We all know that combating corruption is a long-term process, in our countries, in Kenya, and across the world.  In the spirit of continued partnership democracies must come together, learn together, stand together, and act together to renew our cherished democratic values.

As many of the world’s democracies gather today in the United States for the Summit for Democracy, we reaffirm our commitment to open societies, human rights, and free economies, unencumbered by the blight of corruption and illicit financial flows.

These positive values run deep in Kenyan society and political life.  With coalitions of democracies being more important than ever, we are proud to partner with the Government of Kenya, independent institutions, civil society, and the Kenyan public on a range of initiatives.

Combating corruption is at the heart of rebuilding the global economy.  A level playing field for businesses to compete increases investor confidence, drives efficiencies, and reduces costs.  Supply chains with integrity support cross-border trade and the distribution of life-saving medications.  And transparency in public sector procurement helps to ensure every shilling raised in taxes reaches the hardworking families it is intended to benefit through services.

Through initiatives like the Open Government Partnership, Fiscal Transparency Innovation Fund, and the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative, the United States works across the globe to prevent graft, strengthen investigation and prosecution of corruption, promote accountability and transparency, and empower reformers.  On December 6, President Biden released the first-ever United States Strategy on Countering Corruption outlining a whole-of government approach elevating the fight against corruption.

Earlier this year, the UK launched its first autonomous corruption sanctions regime, imposing asset freezes and travel bans on those involved in serious corruption without punishing citizens who suffer their actions. Designated individuals include “Al-Cardinal”, known in East Africa for misappropriating resources from the people of South Sudan. In Kenya’s regions, we are supporting County Governments to improve financial and procurement processes, while we have helped digitise customs at the port in Mombasa, where automation helps reduce the chances for corruption.

Led by President Kenyatta’s efforts, in the most recent Corruption Perceptions Index from Transparency International, Kenya improved to 124th out of 180, its best ranking since 2012.  In partnership with Kenyan counterparts, U.S. and UK legal advisors, special agents, and forensic experts provide training and capacity building to Kenyan prosecutors and investigators tasked with targeting the worst abuses of public confidence, as well as to judges and magistrates who preside over corruption cases.  International partnership with the Independent Policing Oversight Authority over the past several years has also increased Kenyan law enforcement’s accountability to the public.  

However, as this ranking suggests there is still more to do.  Politicians vying for public office in 2022 have made strong statements on tackling corruption: we look forward to seeing them deliver on their promises.

Before these elections, there are three practical areas where work could be done, and we as partners of Kenya are ready to support.

First, to deliver free and fair elections, it will be important to increase transparency and accountability of campaign finances into August and beyond.

Second, we welcome the Kenya Financial Reporting Centre’s proactive, whole-of-Government role in preparing for the upcoming Financial Action Task Force Mutual Evaluation, a highly technical, independent, and apolitical process.  We support efforts to ensure Kenya’s legislative and regulatory framework is strengthened in advance of the Evaluation and are closely following the progress of the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill to enhance money laundering reporting requirements.

Third, we commend the ongoing efforts by the Business Registration Service to finalise appropriate regulations to embed the use of beneficial ownership data into public procurement, and we stand ready to provide further support to help businesses comply with the requirements.

We all know that combating corruption is a long-term process; in our countries and across the world. Working with partners like Kenya, the international community must continually innovate to counter the threat of corruption.  At the Summit for Democracy, we reaffirm that commitment, and our resolve to sharpen coordination to combat corruption with you.