Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
Corruption has become prevalent in every nook and cranny of nations around the world and sub-Saharan Africa, seems to be most hit by this hydra-headed monster, which has penetrated every sphere of government and governance in Africa.
The word Corruption has been defined in different ways by different organisations due to the nature of the act. The World Bank defines corruption as, “the abuse of Public office for private gain”. This definition points to the fact that Corruption is mostly perpetrated in public offices.
Transparency International on the other hand, defines corruption as, “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. TI further classified corruption under grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs. This classification, helps to explicitly classify acts that can be termed as corrupt practices.
No country in the world is totally free from Corruption, but some countries have very low corruption level while others, especially in Slsub-Saharan Africa, have high level of corruption and these countries with high level of corruption are largely underdeveloped due to the fact that monies that have been mapped out for basic amenities, like quality healthcare, good and sound education, good roads, water and electricity are being cornered for private benefit.
The African Union Agenda 2063, under Aspiration 3, recognizes that corruption, erodes the development of a universal culture of good governance, democratic values, gender equality, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law and so, aspires for an Africa, where the continent’s population will enjoy affordable and timely access to independent courts and judiciary that deliver justice without fear or favour, in order to make corruption and impunity a thing of the past.
The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, under Goal 16, calls on all countries to promote and develop accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, by improving access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.
The Report of the AU High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, chaired by H.E Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa, in partnership with United Nations Economic Commission (UNECA), revealed that Africa loses about 50 billion dollars annually. A figure which if channelled into development, will move Africa from the underdeveloped continent list to developed.
The Transparency International 2017 Perception Index, which ranked 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people, using a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean, revealed that New Zealand and Denmark rank highest with scores of 89 and 88 respectively as the countries that are least corrupt, while Syria in North Africa, South Sudan and Somalia in Sub- Saharan Africa rank lowest with scores of 14,12 and 9. Western Europe is said to be the best performing with an average score of 66, while Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia are the worst regions with average score 32 and 34 respectively. This ranking puts Africa at the bottom of the list, simply and clearly showing the real reasons for the high level of underdevelopment in the region.
In a bid to tackle this scourge to help put Africa on the path of glory again,the African Union with the objective to unify the fifty-five (55) Member states and accelerate the process of continental integration to enable Africa play its rightful role in global economy while addressing multifaceted social, economic and political problems within the continent,declared 2018 as the African Anti-Corruption Year (Project 2018), with the theme: “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path To Africa’s Transformation.”
The theme was formally launched by the President of Nigeria, H.E Mr. Muhammadu Buhari on January 28, during the opening ceremony of the 30th Assembly of Heads of state and government of the African Union. During the launch, Nigeria’s President said that, “Corruption is indeed one of the greatest evils of our time. Corruption rewards those who do not play by the rules and also creates a system of distortion and diversion thereby destroying all efforts at constructive, just and fair governance”.
The Champion for 2018, also added that, in tackling corruption, the Continent has made significant strides, putting in place legal and policy frameworks, notably the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), but faulted the adoption of the legal and policy frameworks of the Convention.
AU Member States, adopted various commendable regulatory instruments and established different institutions to combat corruption in Africa, most notably the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), adopted in 2003.The African Union also adopted other instruments, such as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance: adopted on January 30, 2007-Article 2 (9); African Charter on the Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration: adopted on January 31, 2011- Article 12; and African Charter on the Values and Principles of Decentralization, Local Governance and Local Development: adopted on June 27, 2014; Article 14; all with the aim to complement the AUCPCC in ensuring good governance.
It is pertinent to note, that the AUCPCC was adopted in Maputo Mozambique on July 11, 2003 and entered into force on August 5, 2006 and 15 years later, 49 out of the 55 members states of the AU have signed the AUCPCC, 40 countries have ratified and deposited while three countries-Cape Verde, Central African Republic and Morocco have neither signed, nor ratified the Convention. The AUCPCC was adopted due to the concern about negative effects of corruption and impunity on the political, economic, social and cultural stability of African states and its devastating effects on the economic and social development of the African Peoples. The Convention fully recognized the need to address the root causes of corruption on the continent.
A breakdown of the Articles that speak on corruption prevention shows that, Article 2-objectives, want State Parties; “To promote and strengthen the development in Africa by each State Party, of mechanisms required to prevent, detect, punish and eradicate corruption and related offences in public and private sectors; Promote, facilitate and regulate cooperation among the State Parties, to ensure the effectiveness of measures and actions to prevent, detect, punish and eradicate corruption and related offences in Africa; Coordinate and harmonize the policies and legislation between State Parties for the purposes of prevention, detection, punishment and eradication of corruption from the country. This particular Article speaks more on ways to promote and strengthen measures to make preventive mechanisms effective.
If these preventive mechanisms are in place, there surely will not be need for curative measures, which is a great pointer to the fact that, African countries and AU Member States must work assiduously to put measures in place that will facilitate prevention of corruption. This way, the money expended on detection and punishment would be channeled into prevention and in turn, reduce the high cost of fighting corruption.
As a way of creating these preventive mechanisms, Article 2 (5) further stressed the need to; Establish the necessary conditions to foster transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs. This will go a long way in curbing the menace, as it will eliminate any room to use public funds for private gains.
Article 5 of the AUCPCC which talked about Legislative and other Measures, charged State parties to adopt measures to curb corruption and called on Member States to; “Adopt and strengthen mechanisms for promoting the education of populations to respect the public good and public interest and awareness in the fight against corruption and related offences, including school educational programmes and sensitisation of the media, and the promotion of an enabling environment for the respect of ethics”. Public education and enlightenment is a key to preventing corruption, as awareness helps people to desist from indulging in corrupt actions and practices.
On the Fight Against Corruption and Related Offences in the Public Service, Article 7 (2) talks about the need to; “Create an internal committee of a similar body mandated to establish a code of conduct and to monitor its implementation, sensitize and train public officials in matters of ethics”. The need to sensitize and train officials in ethics and morals cannot be over emphasized. This will also help to prevent the indulgence in corrupt practices.
Article 10 of the Convention which touches on Funding of political parties is also very important, as it; proscribe the use of funds acquired through illegal and corrupt practices to finance political parties, and urged member states to incorporate the principles of transparency into funding of political parties. Implementing this Article in Nigeria will help reduce illicit campaign financing, as well as curb corruption in the region.
Furthermore, on mechanisms to prevent corruption, Article 11 of the Convention which is on Private Sector, urged State Parties to; Establish mechanisms to encourage participation by the private sector in the fight against unfair Competition, respect of the tender procedures and property rights; and Adopt such other measures as may be necessary to prevent companies from paying bribes to win tenders. This step will also aid in the prevention process if implemented.
Article 19 which speaks on International Cooperation, clearly states the need for State Parties to, in the spirit of International Cooperation; Foster regional, continental and international cooperation to prevent corrupt practices during international trade transactions.
To achieve prevention, the Civil Society and the media must be fully engaged in the process. Article 12 of the Convention urged State Parties to create an enabling environment that will enable civil society and the media to hold governments to the highest levels of transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs. Also, it stressed the need to; Ensure and provide for the participation of Civil Society in the monitoring process and consult Civil Society in the implementation of this Convention.
Despite all these Articles in the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), stressing on the need to develop mechanisms to prevent corruption, implementation of the Convention has been slow and ineffective. If the fight against corruption must be won and the aim of declaring 2018 as the African Anti-Corruption Year (Project 2018), must be achieved, then the AUCPCC must be implemented fully by Member States and also preventive mechanisms must be put in place to nip the menace in the bud.
Speedy implementation of the AUCPCC, especially in the area of strengthening Preventive mechanism by State Parties, will help in winning the fight against Corruption in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large.
6)Report of the High Level Panel
on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa