Regional Cooperation: A critical aspect in winning the war on corruption
In Africa, corruption – as an ‘age-old plague’ has metamorphosed into new forms, so lethal that Sub-Saharan Africa still ranks as the lowest-performing region with an average score of 32 against the global average of 43 out of 100, on the 2020 Global Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, the global anti-corruption movement. Africa’s performance showing little improvement from previous years and underscoring a need for urgent action.
In 2003, the African Union (AU) adopted the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption (AUCPCC), a shared roadmap for states to implement governance and anti-corruption policies and systems on a national and regional level. To date, Kenya is among the 44 African states that have ratified the convention.
However, the slow progress in the implementation of the provisions of AUCPCC by member states continues to derail the progress made so far in the fight against corruption, underscoring the need for partnerships and collaboration among the African Union, African Union Advisory Board on Corruption, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and other anti-corruption stakeholders at the regional and national level, to turn the tide in combating corruption.
So, as Kenya joins all African Union Member States to mark the 5th African Anti-Corruption Day, the commemoration should not just be another event where stakeholders take turns to condemn corruption with grandiose metaphors but fail to recognize the need for member states to enforce the key areas of the convention including, criminalization of illicit enrichment offenses, which is notoriously difficult to prosecute because many suspected offenders are high-profile and well-connected figures, who often enjoy political immunity.
In May 2021, the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) popularly adopted the motion for a resolution to stop Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) in the extractives sector in East Africa. Although the motion is yet to be sent to the Council of Ministers for action, such efforts within the region should be supported and fortified with the use of technology to expedite the tracking of IFFs to make it difficult for public officials and other individuals to enrich themselves through corrupt acts, and similarly support recovery of stolen assets.
As African states identify the challenges and solutions in the fight against corruption during this year’s African Anti-Corruption Day, Regional Economic Communities should consider enacting comprehensive whistleblower protection legislations to fortify the protection of whistleblowers and witnesses of corruption as undertaken by State Parties to the AUCPCC. This is because most State Parties, such as Kenya, have failed to establish the required mechanism through enabling legislation, leading to poor protection of individuals that risk life and limb to report corruption, contrary to the commitments undertaken by ratifying the convention which requires adoption of legislative and other measures for the protection of witnesses and informants in corruption and related offenses, and that citizens report instances of corruption without fear of consequent reprisals.
The region’s political leadership must also encourage a culture of corporate transparency, accountability, and integrity by eschewing to indulge in corruption themselves, only then will Africa start to effectively address the scourge of corruption.
By Sheila Masinde, Executive Director, Transparency International Kenya