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The Fight against Corruption in Africa: The Next Frontier

On May 25th, 2018, now known as Africa Day, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat warned that excessive corruption in Africa was undermining gains made by Africans; a statement, which reminds us that 2018 is the AU’s Anti-Corruption Year.

According to the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, corruption is still thriving in Africa, with Sub-Saharan Africa identified as one of the worst performing regions in the world, with an average score of 32, coming just before Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

All will agree that corruption is a serious hindrance to development. Even with several African countries making important steps in terms of economic growth, this growth does not translate into concrete enhancements of living conditions for the population.

Knowing that illicit financial outflows account for an estimated $100 billion annually in Africa, it is clear that within a corruption rigged continent, development can never be fully attained.

Conscious of this situation, and convinced that the local level is the place where real change takes place, UCLG Africa has been steadily working to capacitate local authorities in terms of transparency and integrity.

“Leaders in Local Government for Transparency and Integrity in Service Delivery in Africa”, is a project that focuses on the continued performance of local authorities with regards to accountability and transparency.

The “Kabarole Transparency and Integrity Initiative” is the pilot phase of the project, and looks at laws and practices at the local level that strengthens the integrity of the local authority.

The district of Kabarole in Uganda was selected thanks to its innovative approach in increasing citizens’ participation through leaders’ conferences and consultations. Mrs. Chantal Uwimana, former Transparency International-Africa Director, and currently working with UCLG Africa on this project, says, “we want to push for more transparency at the local level and we’ll start doing so by encouraging local governments to put out information proactively.”

Mrs. Uwimana believes that corruption occurs when things are hidden and/or cause confusion in the minds of citizens, who play a crucial role in the integrity and accountability process. “We want citizens to be in a position where they can ask why and proactively look for information despite the reluctance of the decision-makers.”

Watch the entire interview with Mrs. Chantal Uwimana

Fighting corruption is not solely about establishing transparency and integrity systems. It also requires a shift in the mindset of citizens and leaders alike, as paramount. Leaders need to understand that establishing transparent measures can only serve, rather than harm, them.

“Corruption must be eradicated, firstly at the local level.” Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi

UCLG Africa participated in the United Nations Forum on Public Service which was held in Marrakesh, Kingdom of Morocco, June 21-23, 2018. The forum was organized around the topic:“Transforming governance for the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals,”, and was attended by 800 participants from 165 countries, including 44 ministers.

During the second day of the forum, the African Union Specialized Technical Committee No. 8 on Public Service, Local Governments, Urban Development and Decentralization (STC No. 8), organized a “Side Event” on the topic: “Transparency, Integrity and the Fight against Corruption: A key requirement for the achievement of Sustainable Development.”The event was organized in partnership, and with the support of, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA); the Ministry of Reform of Administration and Public Service of the Kingdom of Morocco; the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO); and United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) with its African Local Governments Academy(ALGA).

In his opening address, the Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Mr Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, stated, “Corruption tarnishes the image of local authorities. The issue at stake is restoring respect and trust between local elected officials and the people. We are here to make commitments to eradicate this scourge, which renders Africa unable to achieve the expected development. Corruption destroys the meaning of youth efforts. This issue needs to be eradicated firstly at the local level.”

The Ugandan Minister of Public Service, H.E. Wilson Muruli Mukasa invited participants to make their recommendations.

The first panel dealt with the “International and African instruments in the fight against corruption and the promotion of transparency and integrity: Roles, responsibilities and commitments.” Ms. Susanne Kuehn, Senior Technical Advisor for Anti-Corruption and Strengthening of National Integrity Systems, UNDP, presented a paper on the UN Convention against Corruption and SDG 16. “Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for all for the purposes of sustainable development, ensuring access to justice for all, and establishing effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

Mr. Mohamed Boussraoui, Director of Programs at UCLG, stressed the importance of support for the implementation of SDG 16, including at the level of the world organization of local elected officials, stating, “Corruption is a serious obstacle to equality.” As part of its process for localizing the SDGs, UCLG created a series of instructional videos on the SDGs, including SDG 16, which was produced in partnership with UNDP. The working group on Transparency and Accountability also made its contributions to the issue.

At the African level, the Member-States of the African Union (AU) dedicated the year 2018 to, the fight against corruption with a number of legal instruments existing to be used in that fight: The African Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Corruption; the African Charter on Public Service; and the African Charter on the Values ​​and Principles of Decentralization, Local Governance and Local Development. “The fight against this scourge occupies a salient position at the heart of Agenda 2063, whose content has already been adopted by 36% of countries,” observed Professor Johnson Faladé, Special Advisor to UCLG Africa.

“Corruption increases the cost of investment and scares investors. It promotes the capture of the State by interest groups.” Mr. Yassir Chokairi, Director of the Partnership and Development Pole of ICPC, Morocco.

The Director of the Partnership and Development Division of the Moroccan Central Corruption Prevention Body (ICPC) explained Morocco’s anti-corruption efforts, which began in 1999, with the first anti-corruption program launched from 2005 to 2009. The Director described the Moroccan experience as one that could be a source of inspiration for others. However, he pointed out, “There is not a single realistic method. We must set up simple and realistic techniques.”

Dr. Ethelbert Chinedu Nwokorie, from the School of Public Management at Vaasa University (Finland) presented a study entitled “How corruption affects management.” The study, conducted in Ghana and Nigeria, revealed that corrupt managers did not make themselves accessible to others and that they did not respect other employees.

Actions, tools and means

The second panel presented actions and tools that could be used in fighting corruption. In Azerbaijan, where there is an emphasis on transparency and accountability, citizen radio debates are held between ministers and the public, “They answer citizens’ questions about their management,” explained Mr. Azad Jafarli of the National Agency for Public Services and Social Innovations under the chairmanship of Azerbaijan’s Head of State (ASAN). “Major countries, such as Canada, are highly ranked in the fight against corruption. However this does not mean that the country is in a position to be safe from certain scandals.

To this, Ms. Fatima Houda Pépin, International Consultant, stated, “We must put in symbiosis all the bodies involved at different levels of governance.”

Chantal Uwimana, International Consultant, observed that, “Without transparency, the pillars of governance will not be achieved. Cape Verde is a good example of transparency with a participatory approach.”

Mamadou Mansour Diagne, from ENDA-Ecopop, referred to the promotion of participatory and inclusive governance through participatory budgeting, stating, “Participatory budgeting is a powerful tool to fight corruption.”

Dr. Najat Zarrouk, Director of the African Local Government Academy of UCLG Africa presented the paper, “Investing in the human capital of local and regional governments”. She observed that quality training for officers of public services, as well as local and regional governments, wiould help to empower stakeholders and create a professional conscience.

Participants formulated recommendations in a declaration that was adopted at the end of the workshop.

The main recommendations are to:

• Establish strict compliance with the rules of transparency in the award of local public procurement contracts and the application of contractual clauses, and the implementation of exemplary sanctions in the event of non compliance and rewarding incentives for compliance.

• Subject the administrative and financial management of cities and territories to regular audits whose results are to be made public in order to develop the culture of accountability;

• Launch public campaigns to promote transparency and integrity in the governance of cities and territories with the support of the media highlighting notably the dangers of corruption and mismanagement of public property and its impact negative on the promotion of the values ​​of effort and equity, especially among young people.

• Develop support systems for local and regional governments to establish the culture of performance in the management of local public institutions and the delivery of basic services to the citizens;

• Define a strategy for the deployment and recruitment of quality human resources in the administrations of cities and territories, and build up their capacities, relying especially on the mechanism of the African Local and Regional Government Academy (ALGA) set up by United Cities and Local Governments of Africa;

• Protect by the legislative texts the whistleblowers providing information on corruption acts, and prosecute relentlessly the perpetrators of revealed corruption crimes.