from Africa in Transition

Guest Post: IPaidABribe in India and Kenya

March 08, 2012

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This is a guest post by Asch Harwood, the Council on Foreign Relations Africa program research associate. Follow him on Twitter at @aschlfod.

My attention was recently called to a neat online anti-corruption tool— (h/t Debbie McCoy). As the name implies, the original founders set up a crowdsourcing website to report and track corruption in India.

It is probably too soon to judge whether the site has had an impact on corruption (an oft cited success is an invitation to the founders from the Indian transport commissioner to brief her staff on corruption in the transportation department).

However, despite the difficulties of actually measuring corruption due to its illicit nature, Ipaidabride has successfully gathered a wealth of data, including fairly concrete numbers of how much money is going towards bribes. Most striking is that the police demand bribes almost three to one over other public agencies.

What does this have to do with Africa? A group in Kenya has also set up an website. It has received far fewer reports than its Indian predecessor, although it was only established just over a year ago. Nevertheless, of the 252 reports of paid bribes, 56 percent went to the police. This figure corroborates a Transparency International study from 2009 that asserts that the Kenyan police is not only the most corrupt agency in Kenya, but also in East Africa.

I really hope this catches on, in Kenya as well as other parts of continent. The challenge will not only be getting the word out that this resource exists but showing people that reporting their experiences is worth the time. This means addressing a culture of impunity by holding perpetrators accountable. Without it, people likely will become more apathetic, akin to recent findings that knowledge of a politician’s corruption leads voters to withdraw from participating. Or even worse, they will lash out, as has been the case in Nigeria.

That the police, supposedly there to “protect and serve,” are so deeply involved, in both India and Kenya (not to mention Nigeria), highlights the challenges of overcoming such impunity.