African civil society release a Call to Action Document calling for AU leaders to do more in combating corruption and halt 60 billion USD Africa loses to graft annually-
July 11, 2018 Johannesburg, as the run up to the first Africa Anti-Corruption Day, representatives of African civil society organizations, parliamentarians and other AU institutions released a Call to Action document, on 7th July, 2018, asking African leaders to commit to do more to prevent and act against corruption in Africa. The document is far reaching and has been endorsed by a diverse group of stakeholders that work in the African transparency and anti-corruption sector. The Call to Action document strongly provides that corruption and illicit financial flows threatens Africa’s goals to end poverty and hunger and to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth, protecting the environment and promoting social inclusion. This reflects the theme of the Year: “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”.
“We cannot continue to lose such colossal amounts of money as a continent, and yet wait for decades to recover what we have lost; we need to track, stop and recover stolen assets, if we are to have a lasting impact in stemming the scourge of corruption and IFFs”, said Dr. Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Director, Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
There are ten (10) specific issues participants felt should be prioritized if the 2018 theme of ‘winning the fight’ is to be realized. At the top of the list was the need for the AU Advisory Board on Corruption to finalize the proposed amendments to the Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption, as a strategy for ensuring that the it functions effectively and is able to competently implement the mandate established within the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, which 40 AU member states have ratified.
“This is the most fundamental and urgent exercise that the Board must do this year, which has been dedicated to combatting corruption, we have the support of the citizenry who want to see an effective board, and I believe we also have the support of the Assembly of the heads of state to amended the AU Anti-Corruption Convention,” said Hon. Miarom Begoto, chairperson of the AUABC.
The AU Advisory Board has faced insurmountable challenges, which is not of its making. The Board members are dedicated and capable individuals, but the mandate, which include a tenure system, which sees a two year mandate interspersed with an election cycle every 24 months makes it almost impossible to have a functioning entity that can discharge its role effectively.
“We have been calling for an effective AUABC for years, precisely because the current board does not have security of tenure, it cannot plan, and it has no prospects for continuity and sustainability; if boards are rotated every 24 months, effectiveness and productivity is undermined,” said Jeggan Grey-Johnson, Open Society Foundations’ Africa Regional office.
The African Union has made at least six far reaching Executive Council Decisions, which are binding, aimed at strengthening the mandate of the board, yet most of the decisions have not been implemented. Participants agreed that the surest way to demonstrate that there is political will at the continental level to tackle corruption as a collective, would be to empower the Board, through the decisions it has taken, and trigger an amendment of the Convention under article 25, which speaks to longer terms of office, and financial contribution of state parties to the mandate of the Board, which is grossly underfunded. Africa would also benefit from a strengthened Secretariat, which is struggling with capacity issues.
The Call to Action Document also places importance of stopping corruption in the elections processes, by exposing all local, national, regional occurrences of fraud, corruption and illicit flows of resources, together with all any actions, which point towards the capture of public institutions for purely private illicit and fraudulent interests.
“Corruption in elections has been a constant feature in the political contestation processes in many AU member states, which is why the recently finalized Access to Information on Elections is a valuable tool that AU member states should embrace so as to infuse greater integrity and transparency in the electoral processes,” said Adv. Pansy Tlakula, former Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission- South Africa, and former Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information - African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
Participants also placed on record their concern with reports of gender discrimination at the level of the African Union Commission. They raised alarm over media reports on corruption and management difficulties at the level of the African Union Commission, the Pan African Parliament and the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption, and called on all stakeholders to work urgently towards speedy and credible investigations directed at securing and restoring the credibility of all affected African institutions.
Certain elements of the Call to Action Document will implemented by a working committee, and it is envisaged that concrete results will be registered by December 2018, before the Theme of Year of the ends.
This forum comes at a time when reports reveal that over the last 50 years, Africa is estimated to have lost in excess 1 trillion US dollars in illicit financial flows (IFFs) (Kar and Cartwright-Smith 2010; Kar and Leblanc 2013). This sum is roughly equivalent to all of the official development assistance received by Africa during the same timeframe. Currently, Africa is estimated to be losing more than $50 billion annually in IFFs. But these estimates may well fall short of reality because accurate data do not exist for all African countries, and these estimates often exclude some forms of IFFs that by nature are secret and cannot be properly estimated, such as proceeds of bribery and trafficking of drugs, people and firearms. The amount lost annually by Africa through IFFs is therefore likely to exceed $50 billion by a significant amount.
Despite the plethora of efforts deployed to combat corruption, it remains an endemic problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. Anti-corruption polices that have been pronounced upon have not been operationalized. Laws that have been enacted to promote transparency and public accountability have been flouted. Fundamental regulations and cardinal principles that serve as triggers to unlocking the barriers to exposing corruption, such as: access to information; whistle blower protection; and asset declaration have still not found their way into the statue books of many AU member states.
African Regional Office of the Open Society Foundation- AfRO, works with national civil society organizations to conduct systematic audits of government performance in Combating Corruption. It also does advocacy work and supports civil society better engage with regional and continental Pan African institutions through the following thematic areas: Citizenship and the Right to a Nationality; Elections; International Justice; Youth Participation; and Security Sector Reforms.
The Advisory Board on Corruption- AUABC, is the emanation of The AU Convention on Combating and Preventing Corruption (AUCPCC) and it was created on 26th May 2009 under Article 22 (1) of The Convention. This organ bases its work on the provisions of this legal instrument and in this regard, it is the unique continental organization mandated by the African Union to deal with corruption and related themes in Africa.
The Pan African Parliament-PAP was established as an organ the African Union (AU) in order to ensure the full participation of African peoples in the development and economic integration of the continent. The ultimate aim of the Pan African Parliament shall be to evolve into an institution with full legislative powers, whose members are elected by universal adult suffrage. The new protocol granting these powers has been adopted by the AU and is currently under ratification by member states. However until such a time that the new protocol comes into force, the Pan African Parliament shall have consultative and advisory powers within the AU.
Multi Sectoral Working Group Against Corruption in Africa- MSWG’s hypothesis for change is that, given strong motivation from a diverse group of actors within an African sub-region, it is possible to build pressure at the level of the sub-regional body, or REC level, to strengthen national-level action against corruption. The MSWG Eastern Africa region currently has 14 organisations namely: Advisory Board on Corruption Secretariat; Africa Regional Office-OSF; Transparency International (Germany; Uganda; Rwanda and Kenya); Uganda NGO Forum; Centre for Citizens' Participation on the African Union; East African Association of Anti-Corruption Agencies; East Africa Civil Society Organizations' Forum; Pan African Lawyers Union; Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARWa); Commonwealth Africa Anti- Corruption Centre (CAACC); Radio Veritas.
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