African leaders hit out at Transparency over corruption index

Monday April 04 2016

A past African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. African leaders have criticised corruption measurement indices done by multinationals on perception of the vice in countries worldwide. PHOTO | FILE

African leaders have criticised corruption measurement indices done by multinationals on perception of the vice in countries worldwide.

The continent’s leadership is now asking for an ‘African’ way of measuring corruption that will represent the realities in Africa.

At the just concluded African Development Week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the leaders say in their fourth Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) African Governance Review report that previous measures have misrepresented realities in Africa and are misguiding policymakers and investors. 

The report, titled Measuring corruption in Africa: The international dimension matters, says that many existing indicators are highly subjective and based on the opinions of elites. As such, they are not suited for making country comparisons and ignore the international aspects of corruption.

"We are concerned that these existing perception-based and mixed indices measures of corruption are flawed," said Namibian Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein, at the launch of the report.

Transparency International which has been consistently giving annual surveys on corruption perception in the world last year ranked five African countries among the most corrupt worldwide.


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

TI compiles information from sources and surveys, which are used to determine a country's perceived level of corruption, and rank countries alongside each other.

The African leaders argue that the measurements used to 'name and shame' countries can have a dire impact on development, sometimes negatively influencing aid allocations and foreign direct investment.

Chantal Uwimana, Transparency International's regional director for sub-Saharan Africa, said that the Corruption Perception Index was designed as an awareness tool and was never meant to be used for policymaking.

"It's really like criticising a car for not flying," she said. 

The African Union’s head of Anti-Corruption and Transparency Africa at the United Nations Global Compact Olajobi Makinwa, said the secrecy involved in corrupt practices have made it hard for precise data collection and reporting.

"Generally, measuring corruption is fraught with difficulties. While perception-based measures don't work, objective data is difficult to attain as, by nature, corruption is secretive,” Mr Makinwa said.

The report also questions the international dimension of corruption in Africa, an issue that has been in the spotlight since the release of the report of the high level panel on illicit financial flows from Africa last year.

More than $50 billion cited to be leaving the continent through illicit outflows. 

READ: Continent losing over $50b annually in illicit transfer of funds

The Addis report makes a number of recommendations, both to improve the measurement of corruption as well as fighting the scourge. Among the key recommendations is the promotion of transparency including availability of procurement data.

African governments have also been encouraged to approve freedom of information laws, seek to further involve citizens in policymaking, and support free media. 

The leaders also noted the cross-border tendency of corruption networks and called for closer collaboration between nations and working closely with global partners to combat illicit financial outflows.   

"The issue of corruption, not only in Africa but the world, is like a cancer," said Ugandan Finance Minister Fred Omach.

Corruption is commonly cited as one of the continent's key impediments towards achieving the goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and key economic growth agendas.