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Volume 696: debated on Tuesday 4 December 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the progress of the Government of Kenya in meeting the challenges on poverty reduction and the war on corruption set out in the Department for International Development’s 2004–07 country assistance plan.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am looking forward to debating with the Minister. It is the first time that I have had the pleasure of doing so, but I hope that it will not be the last and I hope that she will not be put off by the remarks that we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Davies. I am not asking her for any predictions. I am just asking her, from her great experience of east Africa, to tell me how she assesses progress on corruption and poverty reduction.

I welcome this opportunity to press the Government on these matters at this crucial point in Kenya’s history. I apologise on behalf of my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood, who is very sad not to be able to be here today. We decided to press for this debate together, but the date unfortunately came up when he is in Darfur. I know that he will follow the debate with great interest.

In almost half a century since independence, Kenya has had only three presidents—Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi and now Mwai Kibaki. In just over three weeks’ time on 27 December, Kenya’s 14 million registered voters will decide whether to move onto a fourth. As the leader of the EU observer team, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, pointed out in Nairobi only last week, Kenya set a high standard for the region with its elections in 2002. I know, because I was there. I took my family to visit a polling station in Coast Province and was moved by the welcome and openness of the election officials and agents and quiet hope of the stream of voters.

The count was unusually clean as well. But as the EU team now says:

“It is important that people can exercise their right to vote freely and that candidates are able to campaign in a peaceful, secure environment in which there is a level laying field”.

Does the Minister believe that hope has been fulfilled so far in these elections? What steps are our Government taking to impress on the authorities in Kenya the overwhelming need for free and fair elections if development is to proceed, and Britain’s major commitment as Kenya’s second largest bilateral donor with it?

I give a little background. My first job at the age of 21, just weeks after I left Oxford, was an an economist statistician in Kenya’s Ministry of Economic Planning and Development. There was a houseful of us. We were called Overseas Development Institute Nuffield fellows in those days. I took over my bed from my honourable friend Vince Cable when he left. My Minister was Tom Mboya, a brilliant leader in the independence movement; at least he was until he was shot one Saturday lunchtime in Nairobi in 1969 just down the street after we had finished work. That produced a turbulent and violent run-up to elections with “oathing” and tribal clashes at which President Kenyatta, Vice-President Moi and Mwai Kibaki, as the Minister of Commerce and Industry defeated Oginga Odinga, the father of today’s leading opposition candidate, Raila Odinga. With Uhuru Kenyatta, the president’s son, the losing presidential candidate in 2002, your Lordships will see that the hereditary principle is proving much longer lasting in Kenyan politics than in our own.

My job taught me all about poverty in Kenya. I was put in charge of Kenya’s rudimentary cost of living statistics, and ran a household income and expenditure survey in Kenya’s three main towns, Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. I recruited a team of 40 enumerators, each of whom had to visit every household that was on the sample every day for a month and note down every cent and shilling that they spent. Many people had low-paid jobs and a desperate struggle to last until the end of the month, with many mouths feeding off the one person in work. Many more had no regular job at all and survived on a bit of hawking perhaps, casual labour for a few hours or days, existing possibly even on the fringes of crime. Now there is a much larger and better educated middle class, but for most people in Kenyan towns that struggle to survive goes on in much the same way as it did then.

There was small-scale corruption in my day. For instance, I had to put my foot down when all the people who were sent to me for jobs as enumerators seemed to have similar names beginning with “Ki” or “Mu”. I pointed out that I wanted some whose names included an “O” or a “Wa”. There was that sort of small-scale corruption. It was corruption in a sense but I learnt that it was based on family and tribal loyalty. However, in those days there was nothing like the large-scale, high profile cases involving hundreds of millions of dollars which have scandalised ordinary Kenyans and Kenya’s friends abroad over the past decade. Corruption is especially vile in a poor country where water, food or medicine are literally snatched from the mouths of the most vulnerable when corrupt officials divert funds. What action is the Fraud Response Unit within DfID taking to avoid repetition of the four cases of misappropriation of donors’ funds in Kenya over the past two years revealed in Hilary Benn’s parliamentary Answer at col. 1984 of Commons Hansard of 21 June?

My noble friend Lord Avebury will cover, among other things, the Kroll report but does either of the non-Nigerian cases on which the International Corruption Group of the City of London police has started work relate to Kenya? DfID’s October 2007 publication, Reducing Poverty in Africa, states:

“Thanks to DFID funding (£6 million over 3 years) to the International Corruption Group, the City of London and Metropolitan Police Forces now have 16 additional police officers”.

Is not Kenya an obvious place for the Proceeds of Corruption Unit—which has reinforced efforts to combat money laundering by “Politically Exposed Persons”, as the report puts it—to focus its efforts, especially in the light of widespread and persistent reports of very large sums held in London bank accounts by retired and serving Kenyan MPs and their families? Just because Britain’s own recent record on transparency and party funding leaves so much to be desired, we must not turn a blind eye to corruption elsewhere, especially if British taxpayers’ money has effectively been recycled through corrupt fat cats abroad back to British bank accounts in London.

A year ago Kim Howells, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, said that “graft” was rampant at virtually every level of Kenyan society and government. He said after a visit to Mombasa:

“People can be bought, right from the person who works at the docks to the Government. The weakness has been recognised by drug traffickers and probably by terrorists, too”.

A few weeks after he said that, the head of Mombasa’s CID was shot dead because he was making too much progress in clearing up corruption at the docks. Mr Howells also noted that pledges from the Government of President Kibaki, elected in 2003 on a reform platform to clean up corruption had not been met. He said:

“Almost nothing has resulted from that. There is clearly complicity at very high levels in terms of arrests”.

He also said that ordinary Kenyans he had spoken to during his trip had expressed a “huge sense of disappointment” with the lack of progress in addressing corruption. He added:

“We have not seen significant arrests or legal action”.

Is that still the Government’s view, and what are they doing about it? Widespread corruption in a society breeds cynicism and despair. The 2004-07 country plan contained a very interesting analysis pointing to a culture of political and economic patronage as the root of widespread corruption. It exploited ethnicity. The capacity of Kenya’s public institutions—the civil service, public sector banks, the police and the judiciary—was seriously and systematically undermined over many years and became progressively less able to provide the checks and balances necessary to limit the spread of corrupt practice. Rather than Kenyans’ taxes being collected fairly and spent efficiently on the basis of need, they have often been collected arbitrarily and spent for private gain. How do the Government assess the position today?

Despite this difficult background, the Kenyan economy has been showing healthy overall economic growth over the past three years. But GDP growth rates of 5 or 6 per cent are not as impressive as they sound when rapid population growth means that the economy has to grow by at least 3 per cent a year just to stand still in terms of average income per head. Kenya is a fertile country but population growth has to come down if a fixed amount of land is to feed the 70 per cent of the population who still make their living from agriculture, and to slow the torrent of people going into the towns and cities in a desperate search for work or income of any sort.

The 2004-07 plan pointed out that accurate and detailed information on Kenya is in very short supply but available data suggest that the number of people living below the national poverty line has risen from about 11 million—48 per cent of the population—in 1990 to around 17 million—56 per cent of the population—in 2001. What is the Government’s latest estimate of the number and percentage of the population living below the national poverty line?

The House of Commons International Development Committee report on the 2004-07 country assistance plan concluded:

“DFID must be able to assess whether sufficiently speedy progress is being made towards agreed objectives. DFID must be able to monitor Kenya’s progress towards the MDGs, and to evaluate the effectiveness of its assistance … Well-designed processes for poverty reduction and development assistance are crucial, but they must be judged by whether or not they deliver the outcomes required in an agreed timescale”.

I would be interested to hear the Government’s response to that.

Kenya is a country with enormous potential. Its people are far better educated than 10 or 20 years ago. It has wonderful natural advantages, a free press, a basically sound infrastructure and businessmen and women with great entrepreneurial flair. But too many of its best brains have concentrated on enriching themselves rather than their country and their fellow citizens in recent decades. Other countries in Africa have worse divisions between rich and poor, a lower standard of living and more brutal and repressive regimes. But ordinary Kenyans’ high hopes of the new Government they elected five years ago have been dashed. I trust that the Minister can tell me how our country’s resources and influence, which, as she knows, are still very great in east Africa, can be brought to bear to help Kenya find prosperity with equity and accountability in the years ahead.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, for introducing this topical debate. As he mentioned, it is opportune that we debate these issues in the run-up to the forthcoming election on 27 December. Unfortunately, I do not share the same amount of first-hand experience as the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, as I have lived most of my life in South Africa, but I am a regular visitor to Kenya and I have had first-hand experience of life in the rural areas.

The central theme of the opposition leader Raila Odinga’s campaign gets right to the root of this debate in that he is challenging President Kibaki’s Government’s pledge when they came to power in 2003 to end corruption, provide more transparency in government and implement measures to alleviate poverty.

In addressing this debate and similar debates on Africa, there is a tendency to be negative about the continent. There are clearly many ongoing crises and challenges in Africa, but there have always been many success stories. It is important in such a debate to balance the positives with the negatives. To be fair, most people in Kenya today would agree that the country is certainly in a better state than it was five years ago when President Kibaki succeeded Daniel arap Moi.

President Kibaki’s election in December 2002 prompted hope around the world that Kenya would shake off the shackles of corruption and move forward. The country is rich in resources, rich in wildlife, rich in tourism and rich in potential. There have been many success stories in Kibaki’s Government. Notably, there has been an improvement in primary school education, which has dramatically raised levels of literacy. It is heartening that 86 per cent of Kenyan children now attend primary school.

He has also supported the economic management of Finance Minister Amos Kimunya, with the result that economic growth has accelerated steadily and reached over 6 per cent last year. I noted the cautionary note of the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, that there is still a high population growth rate in excess of 3 per cent. The East African Association, the corporate body representing major businesses in the region, has recognised a healthy upturn in the formal business sector, with many large companies reinvesting in their own businesses, which is encouraging. They have also welcomed the Kibaki Government’s laissez-faire approach to business. There is also no doubt that the remarkable growth in mobile phone usage, particularly in rural areas, over the past five years has substantially assisted many smaller and medium-sized businesses.

It is important to note the role that women have played as a driving force behind this economic upturn. In many cases, they generate income from three different sources: producing, selling and transporting goods. However, while domestic growth has been strong, there has been less international inward investment into the country. Only 5 per cent of Kenya’s budget is funded by international donors, compared to 50 per cent for some of its neighbours. The country still offers a skilled workforce and a developed financial sector, quite apart from the largest transport hubs, manufacturing capacity and road network in the region.

The recently published Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey shows that more Kenyans are leading better lives, with inflation running at just 6 per cent. There has been notable growth in the size of the so-called Kenyan middle class, which, in turn, seems to have strengthened the citizens’ ability to call the Government to account for their actions. They will certainly play a major role in the forthcoming elections.

All those indicators add up to good news. However, President Kibaki has failed to address the problem of corruption. He has also failed to fulfil many of his pre-election promises, including the delivery of a new constitution. His Government have made many commendable recommendations in White Papers. However, there has been a distinct lack of follow-through and action in delivery of many of those initiatives. Those failures and the lack of strong leadership have led to increasing public concern about the competence of the president and his Government and a clear ebbing of the optimism that greeted President Kibaki’s election just five years ago.

At Nairobi airport, a signpost greeting passengers as they reach the baggage carousel reads, “No bribes should be given or accepted whether demanded or not”. Sadly, actions will always speak louder than words. Kiraitu Murungi, a Member of the Kenyan Parliament, said at a recent conference on corruption:

“Corruption is not limited to ministers, permanent secretaries and other top state officials. Corruption is everywhere. The chief, the businessman, the teacher, the driver, the messenger, the farmer, the rich and the poor—your brother and mine—are involved”.

Sadly, for every step forward, there seem to be two steps backwards. One moment, we hear the encouraging news that the Kenya Revenue Authority has dropped out of the top five most bribery-prone organisations in the country, as monitored by the corruption watchdog Transparency International. Next, Kenya’s Parliament passes a law that prevents the Anti-Corruption Commission from investigating grand corruption that took place before May 2003. As your Lordships are aware, this measure has halted inquiries into the two most notorious cases—the Anglo Leasing scandal and the Goldenberg affair—and effectively protected senior members of the current and previous Governments from interrogation.

One moment, we hear encouraging noises from the president. The next, we see research showing that no fewer than 36 per cent of Kenyans report that either they or their families have been paid a bribe in the past 12 months. It is perhaps most telling that former President arap Moi has endorsed President Kibaki as he seeks re-election in the imminent general election. This is a clear indication of Kibaki’s failure to break from the past.

Having lived much of my life in Africa, I argue that a key driver for effective and sustainable democracy is the requirement for strong and transparent leadership where there is delivery on pre-election promises, on which I commend Nelson Mandela of South Africa. Unfortunately, this has been sadly lacking in Kenya. Several months ago, the polls indicated that Kibaki was coasting towards comfortable re-election, but recent polls suggest that the race has tightened, and some polls are even putting the opposition in the lead. Odinga is a populist, and his credentials are questionable, but he will serve his country well if he wins and activates the policies that Kibaki has outlined but not pursued. By failing to address corruption, Kenya is losing the war on poverty.

I have always advocated African solutions for African problems, and that remains the case. Corruption in Kenya will stop when Kenyans stop being corrupt. For too long, Kenyans have been asking each other for “a little tea”; popular slang for a bribe. So long as that culture remains, the country will fail to address corruption and, by failing to address corruption, it will struggle to alleviate poverty.

Before I sit down, I would like briefly to address the overarching challenge of reducing poverty. Sadly, there is still a lack of basic infrastructure, particularly in the road network and electricity supply in many poorer areas. We should also bear in mind that poverty rates in west Kenya towards the coast and semi-arid areas are twice those in the central province. As the Department for International Development’s country assistance plan has made clear, Kenya will only start addressing the challenge of poverty reduction when it finds the collective will to address the problem of corruption. I hope that the result of the forthcoming election will now cement words into actions.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on getting this debate at such a critical moment in Kenya’s affairs and on the way in which he has deployed his extensive knowledge and experience this evening.

Corruption did not begin with President Mwai Kibaki but, as he came into office pledged to stamp it out, it was a bitter disappointment that under his Government it was business as usual. My noble friend has quoted Kim Howells’s vivid description of the corruption epidemic last year, and before that our then High Commissioner, Sir Edward Clay, had accused corrupt Ministers of, “vomiting on the shoes” of donors.

The Foreign Office has said that we were never asked for help in freezing assets stashed in the UK during the Moi presidency by corrupt politicians, including his sons and two close allies. One offshore account was said to contain $300 million, but the cash was moved after a tip-off from Kenya. Other alleged assets said to have belonged to the Mois and their cronies included a flat in Lowndes Square and houses in Surrey.

The Kroll report, mentioned by my noble friend, on assets embezzled from the people of Kenya, has been swept under the carpet by President Kibaki; but fortunately the text is available on the website “Wikileaks”, which is to be warmly commended for exposing the details of the multi-billion pound scam. I ask the Minister whether the Government have studied this report, whether the police are considering the evidence it provides of criminal activities and whether there is power to sequestrate the many properties in the UK mentioned in the report as having been acquired through corrupt transactions. Since we protested to the authorities in Kenya at the end of August about the false accusation by Nairobi’s spokesman that the UK had refused to help their inquiries into theft by the Moi gang, what further attempts have we made to persuade the authorities to follow up the Kroll report, particularly to nail the currently serving MPs it mentions, including one Minister?

It has been mentioned that Britain is the second largest bilateral donor to Kenya and DfID says that in 2007-08 it is providing £50 million in aid, 80 per cent of it for health, education, humanitarian assistance and social protection. The remaining 20 per cent supports improved governance, a private-sector development and investment climate, financial sector reform, land and agricultural reform and improved statistics. We provide no poverty budget support at present and DfID says this is because not enough progress has been made in dealing with corruption. The IMF did approve Kenya’s PRSP, which was to run for three years from March 2004, and it would be useful to know whether DfID has evaluated the outcomes.

The UNDP has a country plan running for five years to the end of 2008, which included employment creation in labour-intensive projects such as roads and flood prevention. Has it found that corruption was a significant impediment in its operations, and does it find it necessary, as we do, to channel aid through reliable financial management agents or earmarked accounts, or direct to civil society? A key objective of our country plan was to co-ordinate donors in supporting the ERS, and I was glad to note the draft joint assistance strategy for the next five years, which provides for unified assistance by a number of agencies. Can the noble Baroness say whether that has been finalised and whether it includes robust procedures for ensuring that direct aid is not embezzled by politicians or officials?

In spite of Kenya’s healthy growth rate in the past five years, which was mentioned by both noble Lords, and particularly during the years of DfID’s country assistance plan, Kenya remains one of the poorest countries in Africa. As my noble friend pointed out, that is partly because of its high population growth and poor access to reproductive healthcare. US restrictions on its aid to family planning decreed by George Bush were a contributory factor in making the situation even worse. Those cuts led to reductions in the provision of contraceptive care and advice, the closure of clinics, staff redundancies and programme cuts. Have we done anything to make up those deficiencies?

Kenya is near the bottom of Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index and in the UNDP’s human development index it ranks 148 out of the 177 countries reporting. This shows a decline since the turn of the century, during which most other states have made progress, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, and is evidence of the connection between endemic corruption, with the blatant and obscene misdistribution of wealth that we have seen in Kenya, and the appalling poverty which afflicts the broad mass of the population. The UNDP identified gross abuse of public office and incorrigible tolerance of mediocrity as factors leading to the misappropriation of productive resources and the undermining of economic development and human rights.

Kenya also faces huge problems which are not of its own making. HIV/AIDS affects 2 million people and was responsible for a reduction in life expectancy from 60 in 1990 to 45 in 2002. Although infection rates are levelling off, far more needs to be done. DfID was funding the supply of ARVs to half the 120,000 people who needed them by the end of 2006 and it would be useful to have an update on that programme since the end of last year.

Land degradation and desertification mean that 10 million people living in the affected areas suffer from acute poverty. Global warming will make the situation far worse. A one-metre rise in sea level would mean the loss of $500 million of crops in coastal areas, and the environment Minister told a UN conference in Nairobi that climate change was already threatening Kenya’s poverty reduction programme. Barack Obama, whose paternal family was from Kenya and who may be the next US President, may wish to reconsider his country’s attitude to international agreements on climate change prevention in the light of the disproportionate burden imposed on Africa by America’s profligate use of energy. I hope we may draw those facts to his attention.

Kenya faced a new influx of 40,000 refugees fleeing the renewed fighting in Somalia at the turn of last year before the border was closed, and is now host to 200,000 Somalis in three camps in Dadaab. Save the Children is working to protect the 70,000 children there and it would be good to know whether DfID has provided any resources to help cope with the increased numbers.

Britain is committed to the achievement of the millennium development goals and the Government response to the International Development Select Committee report said that we were working with Kenya and our partners to ensure that information on progress was available to all, and would be used for monitoring progress. Almost all the indicators that we have, apart from attendance in primary education, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord St John, were negative. The slum population has doubled since 1990, under-five and infant mortality rates worsened between 2000 and 2005, TB is on the increase and the proportion of infants immunised against measles has deteriorated. It is true, as it was at the start of our country development plan in January 2004, that Kenya will fail to meet the majority of the MDGs and we need to identify the reasons. Kenya applied to join the international alliance to vaccinate children against pneumococcal diseases, which kill a million children a year, but did not meet the criteria. Why was that and can we help them to qualify?

In three weeks, the voters in Kenya are going to decide whether President Kibaki or the opposition headed by Mr Raila Odinga is best qualified to deal with these formidable challenges. Unfortunately, there are signs of trouble. An opposition candidate has been murdered by gunmen; an opinion poll has been accused of manipulating the results in favour of the Government; language that incites ethnic hatred is being used on some radio stations; and the UNDP has accused TV and radio of favouring Mr Kibaki. The chief election commissioner’s term of office having expired on 2 December, it was renewed for another five years by President Kibaki, contrary to the advice of the EU mission at the 2002 election that renewal should not occur close to an election. In deciding how to assist the Kenyan people, DfID and other international donors will no doubt consider whether they have truly chosen their Government in free and fair elections.

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Rawlings is very disappointed that she cannot be here for this important debate.

Reform of the public sector in Kenya must lie at the heart of addressing the chronic issues of governance and corruption—issues that head the priorities set down in the Kenyan Government’s Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation reform programme. That is the key that the Department for International Development must press in delivering greater progress. With DfID providing millions of pounds in assistance, there must be a clear and driven timetable showing how far the Kenyan Government have reached their key priorities. Can the Minister say whether Kenya has managed to reach the target of creating 500,000 jobs a year, and how far has the Minister’s department been involved in reshaping the DfID-Kenya team and relationships with the wider international community?

There is little doubt that Kenya has huge potential. There is a reasonably sized, skilled workforce and of course Kenya boasts an extensive road network in east Africa, as has already been mentioned, yet the past decade has seen Kenyans becoming poorer. Life expectancy has fallen from 57 to 47 years, and more and more people find themselves on the margins of extreme poverty. Does the Minister envisage that Kenya will meet its commitment to achieve the majority of the millennium development goals that it, along with 190 other countries, signed up to in 2000?

An important aspect of Kenya’s endeavour to meet the MDGs is the equalisation of gender inequalities. What is the Minister’s department doing to ensure that Kenya brings about equality for women, who make up 75 per cent of the agricultural workforce but still own only 1 per cent of the land? What specific programmes are in place to ensure that women receive better access to education and skills training?

Of course, in 2003 we all warmly welcomed the National Rainbow Coalition’s declaration of free primary education and the abolition of charges for children. That has undoubtedly led to a significant increase in the number of children going to school. However, there is a challenge to ensure that these children complete their education. More effort must be made to reach out to the many children who are still not in education, including AIDS orphans, who are extremely vulnerable to exclusion.

Approximately 300 people a day die from HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. There are around 1.2 million AIDS orphans—the figure is growing—and approximately 1.2 million Kenyans are living with HIV. The Kenyan Government must make a concentrated effort to ensure that the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS remains high on their agenda. Does the Minister remain confident that the commitment by the G8 to provide universal access to prevention and anti-retroviral treatment by 2010 is on track?

Rising poverty over the past decade has dealt Kenya’s economic growth a harsh blow, with roads, railways, telecommunications, power, water and sanitation deteriorating at a pace that will take billions of pounds to rehabilitate. The Kenyan economy has increasingly become uncompetitive, and there is a lack of confidence from investors facing wholesale corruption and further economic instability. Has progress been made in getting reassurances from the Minister’s counterparts in Kenya that these matters are being dealt with as a matter of priority and that all systems will demonstrate transparency, as they need to do? Investors must have reassurance and a full commitment from the Kenyan Government.

What is the Minister’s assessment of the interest shown by China in the African continent, and does she have any information on how this is being translated into economic growth for African countries? Is Kenya part of that economic investment? Does the Minister agree that trade and access to markets is visibly more advantageous than reliance on aid programmes? However, I accept that the latter must continue its path for some time yet.

We all strive to reduce our carbon footprint in our fight against climate change, but does the Minister agree that countries such as Kenya need entry into globalised markets and that we must be careful that we do not inadvertently close the doors just as they get started?

Kenya is a water-scarce country, which adds to its difficulties. It is vital that aid programmes and funding, through both government and non-governmental organisations, are directed at projects that utilise the skills of the agricultural sector, which still employs more than 80 per cent of the population and accounts for nearly 30 per cent of Kenya's GDP. Kenya struggles to achieve food security—we witness this with the rising numbers of malnourished children.

Does the Minister have any progress reports on irrigation potential being increased in Kenya, and on whether there is a timeframe to meet these plans? I am sure she will agree that tackling food security and improving sanitation systems will greatly decrease mortality rates and the incidence of sickness, from diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea.

Improvement in water supplies will—I am sure the Minister will agree—go a long way in assisting Kenya to meet its commitments to the MDGs. We are well aware that poor governance and corruption have undermined Kenya's socio-economic performance, adversely affected investments and increased poverty. But can the Minister say whether the Kenyan Government have made progress in strengthening governance institutions?

Although Kenya and neighbouring countries face the problems of poor governance and corruption, there remains and will remain the problem of east African borders being wide open and easy to exploit for drug trafficking, human trafficking and terrorism. While we think it is vital that Kenya is supported in wishing to achieve the goals that have been set, it is also important that aid agencies, and the scrutiny of British aid, be evaluated by an independent body.

My honourable friend in another place, Andrew Mitchell, has said that a truly independent watchdog is needed to commission, totally independently, DfID’s work and to report to the International Development Select Committee. Will the Minister agree with my honourable friend that outcomes and outputs should be the focus of her department?

Leading aid agencies have echoed the Conservative Party's call for better independent evaluation of British aid. If we are to maintain public confidence in, and support for, the British aid programme, it is crucial that we lead the way in transparency and accountability. We must be able to measure with honesty how effective aid is in reducing poverty, and if there are better systems and methods to direct aid. We need to have an independent body that will ask more challenging questions of multilaterals and bilaterals than DfID may be inclined to ask, given DfID’s need to retain close collaborative relationships with these and other donors.

I conclude by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, for initiating this debate. An economically strong African continent, with good governance, will bring great benefits to us all. This is a hugely important subject in which, my Lords, you have much greater in-depth knowledge than I do.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, for initiating this debate 23 days before Kenya’s general election. This time five years ago, expectations of the last elections ran high. Kenyans looked forward to change, growth, jobs, free primary education and zero tolerance for corruption. This time, perhaps, disappointment has tempered hope.

Ethnicity and patronage are still important determinants of the outcome of elections and a career in politics is still one of the quickest ways of accumulating wealth. The incumbents and the opposition are mostly cut from the same cloth. So it is with sadness for the country of my mother that I say, in response to the remarks of noble Lords, that I fear that, whatever the outcome of this election, we cannot expect a dramatic step-change in governance and corruption.

Nevertheless, issues of substance are being increasingly discussed and the electorate are showing interest in the progress, or lack of it, that this Government have recorded. What looks like a close election has created at least the possibility of a democratic moment, to break the hereditary principle that the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, talked of—an election in which both incumbent and opposition have equal chances. The results of the parliamentary primaries on 16 November suggest that two-thirds of the Members of Parliament are likely to be new faces.

As the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, indicated, there is a track record of managing election days, and there will again be a number of international observer missions from the EU, the AU, the US and others. But the acid test will not be just whether elections are free on the day but whether they are fair during the campaign in the use of government resources. We continue to monitor, and to press for a level playing field.

Alan Greenspan says that there is only one difference between a developed and a developing country—and that is the rule of law. Thirty years ago Kenya was a prosperous middle-income country. But from the 1970s to the turn of the century, we witnessed the economy contract, life expectancy fall from 62 years to 49 and poverty increase from 48 per cent to 56 per cent. As the analysis of our country assistance plan shows, at the heart of much of this decline lie deep-rooted structures of economic and political patronage and corrosion of the very system of checks and balances designed to deal with corruption.

Corruption is more than the loss of income from a series—however relentless—of headline-grabbing scandals. I cannot comment on the individual cases which noble Lords have raised except to say that we urge a successful prosecution, however difficult, as the clearest indicator that the Government of Kenya are serious about removing the culture of impunity among the political elite. Corruption is one of the biggest hurdles in the fight against poverty. Every day, ordinary Kenyans must bribe to get a job, to operate a business or to build a house. The police are widely regarded not as a source of law and order but as an informal tax on the poor. One national survey showed that 25 per cent of Kenyans face frequent demands for payment in their efforts to obtain the healthcare to which they are entitled.

This year, Kenya, with help from DfID, has been one of the world’s top reformers in the “Doing Business” indicators. But while the private sector is reviving, businesses still name corruption as one of the main barriers to accelerated growth. There are also serious problems with human rights. We urge the Government of Kenya to investigate the alleged killings associated with the Mungiki gangs.

Some have argued that the mere presence of donors such as DfID creates a moral hazard, props up corrupt Governments and even adds to the incentives for corruption, and that donors should walk away. It would be an easy thing to do and, for some, not without a sense of personal moral satisfaction. But the problem with these arguments is that they offer no alternative solutions and no evidence to show that disengagement leads to change. They ignore not only the sheer human cost of punishing the poor for the sins of their Government but the opportunity of empowering, with human development, a generation of Kenyans to bring about change in their lives and the governance of their country.

Our approach to fighting corruption, as set out in our governance White Paper, focuses on the long-term political drivers of change. Corruption is a symptom of weak governance, poor political accountability and inadequate systems. So, first and foremost, we protect UK taxpayers’ funds. We give no budget support in Kenya but use financial management agents and civil society to deliver aid directly. Secondly, to help protect Kenyans’ funds, since the last election we have had programmes to strengthen governmental systems of public finance management, procurement and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, said, public sector reform.

Thirdly, we work with local civil societies to strengthen their voice in holding their own Government to account. We fund one of the most active Transparency International chapters in Africa which produces a bribery index, naming and shaming organisations, and we have just funded the start-up of a national taxpayers’ association.

Fourthly, we have supported the introduction of extensive anti-corruption legislation which, for example, makes bribes a criminal offence, protects witnesses, and requires public officers to declare their wealth. We are also awaiting legislation on money laundering and whistleblower protection. In response to the question from the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, although there was an attempt to change legislation to undermine the powers of the anti-corruption commission, the President has used his veto and it has not been enacted. Fifthly, we work in-country and internationally to trace and recover stolen assets.

I refute the comparison of the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, to party funding issues. In response to the noble Lord’s question, I can confirm that we have not been asked by the Government of Kenya to investigate the Kroll report or any assets in any bank accounts or other cases. As to any action we can initiate, I can neither confirm nor deny whether investigations are ongoing or being considered, as this would negatively impact on police operations. I can say, however, that we actively support the International Corruption Group and my officials work closely with the Serious Fraud Office. Lastly, we exercise targeted visa bans for those involved with corruption, including government Ministers.

However, in the spirit of balance which the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, evoked in his thought-provoking remarks, our country assistance plan also recognises the potential and opportunities for Kenya, and the catalytic role that it could play in east Africa.

A one-sided representation of Kenya would be inaccurate. There are some changes. The economy has seen three years of positive per capita growth and, showing a glimmer of what is possible with capable government leadership, the introduction of free primary education in 2003 was an overnight success. Accompanied by school feeding, teacher training, rehabilitated classrooms and strong donor support, it has led to 1.8 million more children in school. Gender parity is at 96 per cent and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, points out, more needs to be done to reach orphans, vulnerable children and those in remote areas. Nevertheless, Kenya is on track to meet the second MDG to get every boy and girl into primary school.

There have been innovative approaches to deal with local accountability and corruption. DfID’s early leadership in the education sector meant that each of the 18,500 public primary schools has an individual bank account controlled by a school committee of parents and teachers. Government and donor funds are directly deposited into these accounts. Each school publicly displays its receipts and expenses on blackboards for the public and parents to see, as I saw for myself at the Olympic primary school in Kibera. Showing that successful development can shape political debate, all three major parties have announced that they will from January 2008 meet all tuition fees for secondary school, which would make Kenya one of the first countries in Africa to make secondary education accessible to all.

There has been success in the fight against malaria and HIV/AIDS, which are the largest and second largest causes of deaths. DfID has supported the distribution and use of more than 12 million bed nets since 2004 and, as part of a comprehensive package of prevention and better treatment, that is leading to real epidemiological changes and a dramatic 44 per cent reduction in mortality in sentinel areas in just two years. As many noble Lords remarked, HIV/AIDS prevalence is an issue, but it has dropped by half to 5 per cent as a result of concerted efforts to change behaviour, lower incidence levels and, unfortunately, higher death rates. Half of those in need receive anti-retroviral treatment, averting 57,000 deaths from AIDS by 2006. That reflects the multi-sector donor approach and our commitment to universal access to ARVs by 2010.

However, overall Kenya, like the rest of the continent, is off-track in meeting the health-related MDGs. Child and maternal mortality rates are the most powerful indicators of the effectiveness of an underlying health system. Infant, child and maternal mortality has increased rather than deceased in Kenya over the years so Kenya was picked as one of the eight first-wave countries in the international health partnership launched by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in September. Its purpose is to ensure that donors co-ordinate and back country plans to provide sustainable, comprehensive and universal healthcare beyond the focus on individual diseases. That is why half of DfID’s programme focuses on healthcare.

The proportion of those living in poverty has reversed to 46 per cent since the publication of our country assistance plan, but the impact of growth has been uneven. Only 50,000 of the 500,000 jobs have been created, and 16 million people, mainly in the arid or semi-arid lands, live on the edge of survival. The cycles of droughts, floods, disease and even conflict have taken their toll. At the height of the 2005 drought, 10 per cent of the population needed emergency humanitarian assistance. So DfID is pioneering a new programme to protect the assets of the most vulnerable, to keep children in school and to break the cycle of dependence during emergences.

As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, rightly points out, poor governance is not the only serious threat to poverty reduction. There is clear and consistent evidence in the IPCC climate model that Kenya, especially northern Kenya, will get warmer and wetter and experience more severe droughts in coming decades. We are therefore conducting a climate change risk assessment and developing adaptation options for all our programmes, including water. We are also working along the lines of the Stern review to analyse the risks of climate change to growth and poverty reduction in Kenya.

In response to specific questions of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, the IMF has recently approved its final review of the poverty reduction growth facility, and the Kenyan joint assistance strategy was approved by 17 donors and provides a robust basis for a stand against corruption.

I am proud of what DfID has achieved in Kenya. Our work on terrorism, working with the Government, does not affect our evaluation of our own work in DfID. An independent country programme evaluation published this year states:

“The Kenya country programme has in large part been successful in delivering what it set out to achieve. This is a good outcome in a difficult governance environment”.

It goes on to state:

“DfID has made a positive contribution to political accountability and a relatively peaceful election and political transition with examples of effective public information, civic education and advocacy”.

In addition to governance, poverty and climate change we know that the challenges of migration, urbanisation, exclusion, radicalisation, terrorism and regional integration will all play out in Kenya.

There are many in Kenya who deserve our support through these challenges—the Nobel peace prize winner Wangari Mathai, the world renowned anti-corruption activist John Githongo, dedicated teachers, health workers, civil servants and civil society. We will remain committed beyond this election to the people of Kenya, to its vocal activists and its many silent heroes.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken. Your Lordships will have noticed that we have largely been singing from the same hymn sheet. I do not think the debate has been any the worse for that. The debate has been topical and timely, and I thank the House authorities for squeezing it in for us at short notice.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, particularly for his experience in rural areas. He is right; we must not be too negative. My noble and indefatigable friend Lord Avebury asked some penetrating questions on the Kroll report and made a very powerful point about the distortion of American aid under the current Government; let us hope that that will change soon.

The noble Baroness, Lady Verma, gave some stark warnings—perhaps a little too stark, but none the less fair I suppose—about how Kenyan industry has drifted from what was a very competitive position a few years ago.

My Lords, with respect, this is a Question. The Minister has replied. Usually the noble Lord does not respond.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken and I thank the Minister for her frank and comprehensive reply.

House adjourned at 8.32 pm.