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Economic Officer US Embassy Visits SLS, Discusses Kenya-US Anti-Corruption Pledge

The Strathmore Law School (SLS) community recently received a special guest from the United States Embassy Nairobi. Heath Bailey, a Foreign Service officer at the Embassy representing its State Department, heads its Economic Issues Office where he deals with matters of trade, entrepreneurship and now the anti-corruption partnership between the Government of Kenya and the Government of the United States.


Mr. Bailey’s office is charged with the implementation of what came to be known as ‘The Kenya-U.S Anti-Corruption Pledge’ born during President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2015. Marked by many activities including the Global Entrepreneurship Summit hosted in Nairobi, the President of the US left this as a sign of his willingness to partner with this nation to deal with the disease of corruption. Mr Bailey began by explaining the pledge as not being a treaty but a commitment, not being legally binding but a function of the president’s executive prerogative.


As a matter of Mr. Bailey’s observation, the already existing plans make Kenya seem perfect on paper. He further elaborated this by stating that, though the paper work Kenya has on the war against graft is impressive, a look into reality shows that much still needs to be done and the truth of a poor implementation mechanism. He went on to spell out the commitments that Kenya had made as put down in the pledge: Kenya committed to join global organizations in order to strengthen the country in the fight, increase financial flow monitoring to reduce person-to-person interactions, in turn stifle the opportunities for exchange bribes, training public officials in the devolved structure in a bid to reinforce international anti-corruption initiatives and standards. He spoke of these in the wider context of an implementation plan that needed to be pushed in institutional circles. He emphasised the fact that without an active implementation this would once more be a great pledge and a hope but never a reality.


Many steps stood in between, Kenya and the graft free society the country is after, and the steps though small, that had to be taken building towards the corruption intolerance. According to Mr. Bailey, above the plan was the reality that corruption is fed by a culture that tolerates it with impunity. Further to that, Mr. Bailey explained the realisation of our national values and the entrenchment of these values in society. He added that Corruption has a face and there is a chance to create an intolerance amongst the people to be supported by the institutions that the implementation would strengthen—more like a synchronized effort by our whole society in knowing that this country could definitely be better in standing against corruption.


Mr. Bailey was confident that the Kenyan people would be the drivers of the fight against corruption and that that fight had begun to manifest itself in society whereby the ordinary mwananchi no longer differentiated from the seemingly insignificant action of paying a government official a bribe to access a service, and that of big corporations giving kickbacks to government officials in an effort to bend the rules. Corruption in Kenya may arguably be at an all-time high, but it is encouraging to note that the ever growing public recognition and scrutiny on the vice is the first step to its eradication. In that vein he lauded industry players such as the Kenya Private Sector Alliance for its active and vibrant steps which included recognising and upholding the position that it holds in society and its ability to influence the actions of its members to act against corruption.


Mr. Bailey now works in Kenya, prior to which, he had served his country in San Jose (Costa Rica), Riga (Latvia), and Manila (Philippines).Before starting his career in diplomacy, Mr Bailey was a trial lawyer in the US where he managed a law firm. It was while in legal practice that he felt to pursue this career path with a desire to work as a public servant, pursuant to which he sat their foreign exam with almost no expectation that he would get the job. Needless to say, he got the job and had to close down his practice.


Article by Judy Muriuki