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Websites allow Kenyans to report bribes and battle corruption

Social media and crowdmapping sites are giving Kenyans the tools to combat corruption by reporting when a policeman or government official asks for a bribe.

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Ask a Nairobi resident to name the most frustrating part of living in Nairobi, and they’re likely to answer: bribing a cop.

Well, now Kenyans have a way to combat corruption, by text messaging, emailing, or even tweeting an incident to a website called hatari.co.ke. Hatari (which means danger in Swahili), is just one of several private anticorruption initiatives aimed at fighting corrupt practices that cost Kenya as much as $1 billion a year.

Kenya, a country where scandals make daily headlines and where public opinion polls show a declining trust in political leadership, has made small strides this year in bringing down corruption in government institutions. A Bribery Index published by Transparency International in October 2011 found that the prevalence of bribery had actually dropped slightly, making Kenya the fourth rather than the third most-corrupt nation in East Africa. Even so, Kenya’s police remained the most corrupt institution, the survey found.

Kenyans are used to multimillion-dollar scandals such as Anglo-Leasing, in which government officials paid five times the market price for a foreign company to import and install passport printing machines, and Goldenberg, in which Kenyan officials used Kenyan currency reserves to subsidize gold exports, paying well-connected exporters 35 percent more per kilo than the estimated value of that gold at taxpayer expense.

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