The Kenya Forum | More pay does not cut corruption in the public service - The Kenya Forum

February 10, 2016


“But even for Kenyans, who have witnessed countless corruption scandals over the years, the graft coming to light now is almost too outrageous to believe.”

More by Winnie Kabintie

More pay does not cut corruption in the public service

Higher pay for public officials, as it’s theoretically perceived, is not enough to tame the massive corruption in the public service.

Corruption has been so rampant in Kenya that citizens have almost learned to live with it. The article “Just Steal a Little” by Jeffrey Gettleman that was published in the New York Times last year in April, could not have captured it any better;

“But even for Kenyans, who have witnessed countless corruption scandals over the years, the graft coming to light now is almost too outrageous to believe,”.

 …..“If you’re going to steal,” he said, echoing the famous words of Mobutu Sese Seko, the former dictator of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), “please, just steal a little.” The article read in part.

Corruption in Kenya is now more or less perceived as a means to an end thanks to economic factors including a high cost of living that is pushing majority of Kenyans to the periphery of poverty and therefore no matter how much you fatten the paychecks of public officials, that alone is not a solution to curb corruption.


According to Raphael Obonyo, Africa’s rep of the World Bank’s Global Coordination Board of the Global Youth Anti-Corruption Network, people who engage in corruption are not driven by lack of resources but greed.

“People who engage in corruption are not solely driven by lack of resources; it is mostly erosion of values. They are driven by greed. As such, increase in the pay, will only serve to make them thirsty for more resources,” Obony0 argues

When a person’s salary advances, they upgrade their  lifestyle in equal measure; they will move to a bigger house, buy a good car, take their children to better schools and what have you; after all, how will people know! So money will never be enough, that’s human nature to say the least.

A New research, published in The Economist, involving a natural experiment in West Africa has also refuted the theory that higher pay aid in cutting corruption and also suggested that conventional economic theories of corruption are wrong.

“….. Ghana’s police became more corrupt after their salaries increased, both absolutely and relative to Burkina Faso’s police and Ghanaian customs officers. “

The same can be said for Kenya where our legislators are some of the highest paid in the globe yet we are top on the list of most corrupt nations.

Kenyans have also witnessed massive “lootocrasy” and grand corruption scandals from state officers, a tradition that has fueled the “it’s our turn to eat mentality” in the sense that most people who venture into the murky political arena are driven by the “get rich quick” mindset and not the primary desire to bring change.

When corruption thrives, a country’s economy suffers and although the government of the day has acknowledged the effects of corruption, little efforts have been made to eradicate it and Kenyans have given up the hope that the vice will ever be stamped out.  It’s now  the typical scenario of everyone for themselves and God for us all and with life in Kenya becoming hard by day, it’s becoming apparent that every Kenyan now in his own line of work, either in the private or public sector, is always looking for a way to make that extra shilling; the only difference is in the levels of “looting” and the Mundus Operandi because well; “if our leaders can do it and get away with it, why not us?”; “Why should I pay taxes and they are going to loot it anyway, when I can just pay someone something small and evade?”


It will only take a great deal of political will to stamp out corruption because even though Kenya has a body to fight graft; the ethics and anti-corruption commission (EACC), it remains a toothless bulldog thanks to deliberate political interference among other things.

Despite numerous public officials being linked to corruption scandals, Kenya is yet to prosecute any person(s) even in blatant cases that have involved foreigners like the Chicken Scandal saga, where the UK accomplices to the Kenyan officials were jailed yet Kenya is allegedly still “lacking sufficient evidence” to press charges on its crooks.


In an article published by the Daily Nation in 2015, Raphael Obonyo says that the country should now take the fight against corruption beyond naming individuals who have been linked to corruption.

“The anti-corruption war should now shift from naming and shaming to prosecution and dismantling of corruption networks,” he said.

The Singapore experience provides a model for dealing with runaway corruption in Kenya and it will only take a steadfast political will, to weed out the vice.


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