African governments undermining corruption fight, AU body says

Thursday July 14 2016

Implementation of corruption fight programmes has been very low, with only 11 African countries reported to have submitted their progress reports to the commission. PHOTO | FILE

Africans continue to face increasing risks of being short-changed in dubious and poorly negotiated oil deals between governments and multinational corporations involved in the extraction industry, the African Union's (AU) advisory board on corruption said at the side-lines of the ongoing summit in Kigali.

“The kind of contracts made by our governments with these multinationals have not met the transparency standards needed, our people are short-changed in these contracts by multinationals, this needs to be addressed” Daniel Batidam, chairperson of the AU anti-corruption body said.

“These contracts have largely benefited their parent countries more than our people; deals are made with multinationals that work like cartels and a few individuals in governments. The interests of the people need to be protected,” he added.

READ: Uganda’s new oil contracts: Issues of transparency and the environment

The comments come amid concerns that although many African countries have continued to make oil and other mineral discoveries, exploiting these resources has not necessarily translated to development, with citizens continuing to wallow in poverty and conflict fuelled by the discoveries.

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Mr Batidam also accused governments of deliberately sidelining funding meant for anti-corruption programmes, saying it is part of the reason corruption continues to have a stronghold on the continent.

“You must invest in systems to fight corruption at different levels. Unfortunately this is not being done. Governments need to empower bodies fighting corruption, our leaders need to show commitment” said Mr Batidam.

He also noted that at this stage governments need to embark on preventive approaches of fighting graft as opposed to curative interventions, pointing out that the AU itself has not committed the necessary funding to the committee to fight the vice.

“The AU has not done enough in supporting anti-corruption commission and agencies with the needed human and financial resources.”

READ: South Africa tops graft list as continent says vice on the rise - survey

It was also noted that implementation of corruption fight programmes has been very low, with only 11 countries reported to have submitted their progress reports to the commission.

John Kithome Tura, the rapporteur of the AU advisory board on corruption, said the perpetual lack of transparency by governments has made citizens lose trust in them.

“There is no trust between our citizens and their governments, there is need to strengthen accountability systems” he said.

In 2002, the AU estimated that corruption costs its member States up to $150 billion each year and drains about a quarter of their collective GDP, with the figure estimated to be even greater today.

The World Bank admitted that 75 per cent of its agricultural projects in Africa are failures – with some suggesting that eliminating graft could be one of the most promising routes toward sustainable development.

In Africa, the vice ranges from high-level graft on the scale of millions of dollars to low-level bribes to police officers or customs officials.

While high level graft imposes the largest direct financial cost on a country, petty bribes have a corrosive effect on basic institutions and undermine public trust in governments.

According to the 2009 East African bribery index compiled by Transparency International, over half of East Africans polled had paid bribes to access public services that should have been freely available.

Graft has also been seen to increase the cost of doing business.