Saturday, October 15, 2011

Anti-Corruption Prescriptions don’t Provide Cures

Hits were it already hurts

If you read an earlier blog you saw where I mentioned the enormity of corruption in Africa. As African Americans we must wrap our collective brain around this problem. Government corruption is a ubiquitous, global scourge; however, it hurts developing countries the most.

Here are statistics on corruption in Africa from Transparency International:

·        According to the African Union, Corruption in Africa is costing the continent nearly US $150 billion a year

·         Corruption  increases the cost of goods by as much as 20 percent  

·       The African Union (AU) estimates that resources diverted by corrupt acts and resources withheld or deterred due to the existence of corruption, are thought to represent as much as 25 percent of the continent’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

·       Research findings by the African Development Bank indicate that corruption leads to a loss of approximately 50 percent of tax revenue, which in some instances is a greater amount than a country's total foreign debt.

·        What is more, the impact of corruption is felt most by the poor. Lower income households spend an average 2-3 percent of their income on bribes, while rich

Anti corruption legislation, anti corruption agencies, anti corruption commissions…. much to do about nothing

I’m learning that one must contextualize corruption. Each region, country, city, town and village has its commonalites and differences.  It is an extremely complex problem and like the Baobab tree's roots extends into a society’s social, political, economic, cultural, class, colonial legacy, and ethnic components. In many countries corruption is a way of life.
Virtually all governments make big headlines when setting up anti-corruption programs, passing anti corruption legislation, or commissioning independent anti corruption agencies (ACAs).

South Africa’s version:

However, it appears that all of this 'much to do about nothing.' The records on the successes of legislation, government initiatives and Anti-Corruption agencies (ACAs) are dubious at best.  
The anti corruption story line usually take on the following modus operandi: First, there is the initial, very public, launch of the anti-corruption initiative. Speeches are made, news pictures are taken and published, and political commitments are given usually by the president or another leading government figure. “We the (you fill in the blank) government are determined to root out the scourge of corruption and the (you fill in the blank) anti-corruption commission is responsible for eliminating corruption from our glorious country.”
After the initial PR splash, and a brief honeymoon, research shows that these initiatives are often severely criticized and left twisting in the wind.  In 2005, a United Nations report concluded,

Several countries have opted for or are currently considering creating an independent commission or agency charged with the overall responsibility of combating corruption. However, the creation of such an institution is not a panacea to the scourge of corruption. There are actually very few examples of successful independent anticorruption commissions/agencies. (UNDP 2005, 5)

Mission Impossible

Government anti-corruption structures and independent ACAs are almost always given vague, “mission impossible” charges.  They are expected to be fiercely independent, develop specialized enforcement competences along with preventive and educational/research capacities and assume a leading role in implementing national anti-corruption strategies.
Weak, politicized and corrupt judiciaries block anti-corruption efforts and there is low accountability for public resources. In order to tackle corruption effectively, political commitment, adequate resources, technical skills, legal frameworks and action across borders are required.

More specifically, the report “How to monitor and evaluate anti-corruption agencies,” does an analysis of corruption trends across the region:

  • Although new anti-corruption legislation has been introduced, implementation is slow and resources are limited. While many countries have introduced new codes of conduct for top leaders, corresponding regulations were not approved until much later.
  • Multi-party democracy has opened new opportunities for corruption, but the pressure for political finance regulation has also grown. There is a link between increasing political competition in the region and political corruption.
  • Judiciaries are undermined by executive influence and bribery. Changing political circumstances have undermined some judiciaries, most notably in Zimbabwe and the DRC. In Mozambique, the judiciary is considered the weakest integrity mechanism.
  • While many new laws and regulations have been introduced to reform public procurement boards, political interests represent a powerful barrier to effective reform. Procurement boards need true independence and effective integrity rules.

“Our hope for the future depends on our resolution as a nation in dealing with the scourge of corruption. Success will require an acceptance that, in many respects, we are a sick society. It is perfectly correct to assert that all this was spawned by apartheid. No amount of self-induced amnesia will change the reality of history. But it is also a reality of the present that among the new cadres in various levels of government you will find individuals who are as corrupt as – if not more than – those they found in government. When a leader in a provincial legislation siphons off resources meant to fund service by legislators to the people; when employees of a government institution set up to help empower those who were excluded by apartheid defraud it for their own enrichment, then we must admit that we have a sick society. This problem manifests itself in all areas of life”.

-President Nelson Mandela opening address to Parliament in 1999:

Difference between a Code of Ethics and a code of conduct

 A Code of Ethics contains the ethical standards to which an organization commits itself, both as an organization and in respect of individual conduct by members of the organization. A Code of Ethics has two components combined in one document:

  • A brief values statement “A short, aspirational document listing and defining a organization” core ethical values, ideals or principles; and
  • A code of conduct “A longer, enforceable, compliance-oriented, operational document setting out policies, procedures and rules regarding best practices relating to daily operational issues affecting the organization.

A code of conduct provides illustrations of how values (contained in the values statement) translate into concrete decisions and actions, rather than a full or comprehensive catalogue of rules or prescriptions. It is not a comprehensive manual of applicable laws and legal regulations, but, where appropriate, it refers to such more technical or comprehensive documents for guidance.

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