August 10th is annually celebrated as the African Union’s African Day of Decentralization and Local Development (JADDL). 2018 has been titled Anti-Corruption Year with the theme: “Combatting corruption: a sustainable path for Africa’s transformation.” This year’s Day of Decentralization and Local Development will focus on: “Fighting corruption at the local level, a sustainable way for the transformation of Africa from its territories.” A theme that comes at a time when local governments have been increasingly shaken by scandals of corruption involving elected officials of the first plan: A situation that has an undeniable impact on the credibility of the continent’s mayors. As the saying goes, “The train that arrives on time does not interest anyone,” we only talk about trains that arrive late. The celebration of African Decentralization Day is of paramount importance to local authorities and is more than just a date. It is an opportunity to present what works. Indeed, there are still exemplary local leaders and territorial civil servants in Africa, who exercise local public service with commitment, self-sacrifice, competence and probity and who manage to create, at territorial level, an environment based on trust, political, economic and social, the results of which, can make an effective contribution to the transformation of the continent.
Corruption, defined as the hijacking of a process or an interaction with one or more people for the purpose of obtaining special benefits or prerogatives in exchange for complacency, affects all spheres of governance (international, regional and local). Its spread on the continent cannot leave local governments indifferent. According to the 2017 Report on the Transparency International Index of Perceptions of Corruption, corruption continues to flourish in Africa. It shows that Sub-Saharan Africa is the least successful region with an average score of 32.
For local governments, the consequences are harmful and responsible for the delivery of poor social services to citizens (water, electricity, sanitation, etc.). The “shortfall” created by corruption is a serious obstacle to the achievement of Agenda 2063 (The Africa We Want) and the Agenda 2030 (the 17 Sustainable Development Goals), whose implementation (SDGs) depends upon up to 65% at the local level. The Africa we want is a continent where children can study under the right conditions, where there is decent sanitation, health facilities, etc. In South Africa in the beginning of August, little Ziyanda Nkosi, a 6-year-old girl, saw the floor of her school’s bathroom collapsing under her feet. she was almost drown in the pool of excrement. This situation generate protestation of Hundreds of parents, enraged that their warnings about the dilapidated school had been ignored for years. They protested a couple of days later, upending their quiet rural town for two weeks last August. In Cameroon, in the municipality of Bangangté, some primary schools have been recipients of ecological latrine project launched in 2013 by the city council headed by Mrs. Celestine Ketcha Courtès, President of the Network of Local Elected Women of Africa (REFELA).REFELA is the permanent gender commission of UCLG Africa. In addition of the preservation of the environment and health, the ecological latrines are involved in the direct production of organic compost (for agriculture). This is very beneficial for farmers who do not always have easy access to chemical or imported fertilizers.
As key stakeholders and the closest to the people, the local authorities in Africa are obliged to take the problem of fight against corruption. As the umbrella organization of the local and regional governments of the continent, United Cities and Local Government of Africa (UCLG Africa) is convinced that the resolution of this problem must start from the grassroots. It is no longer desirable to see people being forced to bribe third parties in order to gain access to the quick signing of administrative documents or access to municipal stamps. This type of scenario, which is present and visible at the lowest level of the administration, has tarnished the image of local authorities and broken the trust between the people and their elected officials. “It is (about) restoring respect and trust between local elected officials and the people. Corruption destroys the significance of youth efforts. This issue must be eradicated, firstly, at the local level,” Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa at the United Nations Forum on Public Service (June 21-23, 2018, Marrakesh, Morocco).
To maintain a relationship of trust with the population, some municipalites have focused on the implementation of the participatory budget. This is the case of the municipality of Pelengana, located in the Ségou region of Mali. The commune has practised inclusive management via the participatory budget since 2014. The municipality, led by Mrs. Diabate Mamou Bamba, was awarded at the first edition of the Transparency Contest of the Local Governance Program (PGLR) in May 2018. The municipality had to demonstrate financial and budgetary management followed an assessment of their financial management from the previous three years. I “The members of the jury found that the municipality was making public restitution. There were minutes of meetings and minutes of public renditions. When preparing the budget, the population was involved. They saw that nothing was done in the commune without the population. They saw an involvement of the various actors, elected, village chief and population in the life of the community,”says Ms. Diabaté.
In Gabon, the capital Libreville also advocates transparency as a means to maintain trust with the population. As such, the Mayor’s team, Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda, launched its new website in July by making the municipal budget for fiscal years 2014 to 2017 available online, and also the main information about the administraive procedure and cost of each service.
For its part, UCLG Africa has launched the project “Transparency and integrity at the local level.” The project focuses on a never-ending quest for the improved performance of local authorities in relation to accountability and transparency. The pilot phase started in June 2017, with the Kabarole local government of Uganda. This approach aims to create an “index on transparency and integrity of local and regional governments,” to be presented and launched at the Africities 8 Summit. Ms. Chantal Uwimana, former Director of Transparency International Africa and Consultant of UCLG Africa, presented the project in video. She hightlighted the 4 pillars of the fight against corruption which are: transparency, participation, accountability and integrity. For Ms. Uwimana, the most important pillar is transparency. “Without transparency the other pillars cannot be achieved. Local authorities must make their information available on their website.”
Ratification of the charter: a compelling necessity
Legal instruments do exist that support local authorities in the fight against corruption. At the African level, there is the African Union Framework Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. The African Charter on the Values and Principles of Decentralization, Local Governance and Local Development, adopted by the Conference of African Union Heads of State, in June 2014, also contains a series of fundamental values, including integrity, transparency and accountability. Under its Article 14, the Charter commits central and local governments to set up mechanisms to combat corruption in all its forms (paragraph 3).
UCLG Africa has seized the opportunity, offered by the celebration of JADDL, to continue its advocacy for the ratification of this charter by the Member States of the African Union. Since its adoption, 13 countries have signed, but only 3 have ratified it (Madagascar, Namibia and Burundi). A total of 15 ratifications are needed to enable the charter to become a legal instrument of the African Union, however, the fact that the ratification process is different from one country to another has impacted on the achievement of this goal. Some countries require the decision of parliament, others of the national assembly, or the president of the republic, or the head of the government or minister of foreign affairs. Once signed, the instruments of ratification are then deposited to the African Union by the country’s ambassador to the AU.
Since 2015, UCLG Africa has engaged with its members for the advocacy and mobilization for the ratification of the charter. This was a key item on the agenda of the regional meetings in the five regions (Central, West, East, Southern and Northern Africa), and the regional strategic meetings (East Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa), which took place in April 2018. From Libreville to Monrovia, Abidjan to Accra, as well as Freetown and Bamako, the mayors of the continent have committed themselves to be the champions for the ratification of this charter. Please view their interviews in which they also discuss the state of decentralization in their countries.
UCLG Africa also works closely with the Specialized Technical Committee No. 8 of the African Union on Public Service, Local Governments, Urban Development and Decentralization (STC No. 8) to advocate for the ratification of this charter. Her Excellency, Ms. Jeanne D’Arc Kagayo, Former Minister of Municipal Development of Burundi and current Minister of Good Governance, invited other countries to follow her example and gave an appointment to her peers to celebrate the progress achieved during the Africities 8 Summit organized by UCLG Africa, November 20-24, 2018 in Marrakesh (Morocco). Please view her video message below (in french).
“This charter is essential because its adoption provides a reference document for all countries that want to deepen or embark on decentralization policies. This charter is also essential for sharing responsibilities between the national and local levels of governance,” Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa.
– Read the Déclaration of the side event of STC No. 8 and UCLG Africa on: “Transparency, Integrity and the Fight Against Corruption: A key requirement for achieving sustainable development.”
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