Botswana to spearhead Africa’s anti-graft drive
Gaborone – All anti-corruption training initiatives for Commonwealth countries in Africa will now take place in Botswana, providing accessible and practical guidance to national agencies in 19 countries across the continent.
Jointly funded by Botswana and the Commonwealth Secretariat, the anti-graft centre will support member countries’ fight against corruption, which undermines hard-fought democratic and economic gains as well as trust in governments’ ability to deliver basic services.
Speaking at the launch of the Commonwealth Anti-Corruption Centre in Gaborone this week, Botswana’s Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe said corruption is a phenomenon, which has delayed the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in most of African countries.
Kedikilwe told an audience of around 200 high commissioners, anti-corruption officials and judges that: “For us as a Commonwealth, countries of Africa have a special responsibility to take the fight against corruption to another level; a political discourse that cannot be over-emphasised.”
He said corruption has become complex and sophisticated, necessitating a bolstered budget to facilitate investigating cases most of which transcend borders.
Kedikilwe said Africa is also lagging behind on the internationally accepted measure of corruption, as a proponent of the Transparency International Perception Index.
Government and the country’s anti-graft agency, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), will provide the secretariat and training facilities, while the Commonwealth has pledged a million pounds to fund the centre's flagship programmes over four years.
Kedikilwe said the centre would provide on-going training for officials from across the continent as well as for officers from local oversight bodies.
The centre will also provide accessible support to agencies battling against increasingly sophisticated corruption practices.
He added that the launch of the centre had reaffirmed the Commonwealth’s commitment to fight against corruption, thereby promoting long-term sustainable economic growth within member states.
“This is one of many shared values that make us all proud members of the Commonwealth.”
At the launch, the Vice-President signed a tripartite agreement between the Government of Botswana, the Association of Anti-corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa and the Commonwealth Secretariat, which was represented by Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba.
In her address, Masire-Mwamba stressed that corruption degrades hard won development gains by undermining good governance, the rule of law and economic progress.
“Today, I am proud to be presenting, on behalf of the Commonwealth, a tangible tool – forged in Africa – to co-ordinate and strengthen the capacity of our national anti-corruption agencies.
“This is a South-South exchange of ideas and good practice with an overarching goal to contribute to poverty reduction through saving public funds and increasing levels of public sector accountability,” Masire-Mwamba said.
The centre began work immediately, with a week-long training course for the 40 officials who attended the launch.
Twelve Commonwealth countries will be participating in the first mentoring scheme to monitor and evaluate a project they have identified.
Dr Roger Koranteng, Governance Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said the centre places the Commonwealth at the forefront of anti-corruption efforts on the continent.
“We have a tangible outcome after 18 months, driven by members of the Association of Anti-corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa and with the support of the Government of Botswana. Members identified clear capacity and skills constraints as well as systems deficiencies. We are now in a position to address these with practical training and guidance from leading experts.”
A statement from the Commonwealth Secretariat says the move is a visible and tangible demonstration of the Commonwealth commitment to support its members’ anti-corruption efforts, with the potential for replication in Commonwealth countries across the world, the statement added.
The Secretariat indicated that all the 19 Commonwealth African countries have pledged support to the Centre, which will provide a South-South exchange of ideas, technical skills and best practice to combat corruption.
It says the Association of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Commonwealth Africa will play a vital role in developing programmes for the Centre, including the sharing of technical expertise and policy advice, the provision of a help desk based at the Botswana Anti-Corruption Agency and specialist training in forensic investigation and asset tracing.