Corruption threatens economic development

 

Corruption, according to Indian lawyer and politician Pratibha Patil, is the enemy of development as well as of good governance.

Sadly, this adversary is a problem for all countries including member states in the Southern African Development Community.

According to the 20th annual Corruption Perceptions Index, released by the Transparency International on December 3, 2014, most SADC countries scored poorly.

“A poor score is likely a sign of widespread bribery, lack of punishment for corruption and public institutions that do not respond to citizens’ needs,” notes José Ugaz, Transparency International chairperson.

Angola scored 19, Botswana 64, Democratic Republic of Congo 22, Lesotho 49, Malawi 33, Mauritius 54, and Mozambique 31 out of 100.

Further, Namibia scored 49, Seychelles 55, South Africa 44, Swaziland 43, Tanzania 31, Zambia 38, and Zimbabwe 21 out of 100.

The index – the leading global indicator of public sector corruption – scores countries and territories on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Chantal Uwimana, Transparency International’s regional director for Africa and the Middle East, also states that the majority of African countries have a score of less than 50 on a scale of one to 100.

She adds: “In a continent with high level of economic growth rates (compared to many parts of the world), the persistence of widespread corruption is one of the factors inhibiting the transformation of the economic growth into development dividends for all citizens…”

The 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, therefore, shows that economic growth in SADC is undermined. No serious investor is willing to deploy capital in a corrupt environment, and this further dents SADC’s chance of transforming economies. SADC countries should hence take on fundamental anti-corrupt measures to stop the rot.

“Countries at the bottom need to adopt radical anti-corruption measures in favour of their people, and countries at the top of the index should make sure they do not export corrupt practices to underdeveloped countries,” says Ugaz.

To weed out the root cause of corruption in the region, member states must also enact and enforce clear rules governing the behaviour of those in public positions.

Governments and/or responsible authorities in the region must create public registers including beneficial ownership information for all companies integrated in their respective countries. This measure will make it harder for the corrupt to hide behind companies registered in another person’s name.

“None of us would fly on planes that do not register passengers, yet we allow secret companies to conceal illegal activity.

“Public registers that show who really owns a company would make it harder for the corrupt to take off with the spoils of their abuse of power,” asserts Transparency International Managing Director, Cobus de Swardt. Transparency, honesty, kindness, good stewardship, openness are also critical when it comes to fighting corruption.

Was it not Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, who once said that “those who fight corruption should be clean themselves?”

Zambian lawyer, Kondwa Sakala-Chibiya, concurs: “There can be no transparent and accountable leadership without the people of our respective countries holding our leaders to account.”

This means leaders must be clean and they should lead by example if the regional bloc is to weed corruption and transform societies.

Without doubt, if all the money that is lost through corruption and illicit financial flows were channelled towards development, the SADC region would not need any foreign aid.

It is also necessary for member states to fully implement the SADC anti-corruption protocol and other international anti-corruption instruments, including the establishment of institutions to fight corruption, and to establish fully functional, fully funded, independent and effective anti-corruption commissions at national level.

These must be harmonised by strong and independent judiciaries, legal frameworks and other institutions, all of which must be coordinated to ensure effective execution.

As regards the independence of the judiciary in the SADC region, it is easy to pick that weak or corrupt judiciaries are a hindrance to social and economic development.

“Strengthening the judiciary is therefore a pre-requisite to upholding the rule of law and maintaining the balance while promoting the separation of powers as enshrined in national constitutions,” notes Sakala-Chibiya.

The SADC Protocol Against Corruption was adopted by the SADC Heads of State and Government at their August 2001 Summit held in Malawi making it the first sub-regional anti-corruption treaty in Africa. The Protocol was signed by Heads of State and Government of all SADC member states. It became operational in July 2005, thirty days after its ratification by two thirds of the SADC membership.

The Protocol notes the serious magnitude of corruption in the region, its destabilising effects, particularly that it undermines good governance. It provides both preventive and enforcement mechanisms and demonstrates a degree of political will in the region to combat corruption.

The purpose of the Protocol is threefold, namely

·  to promote the development of anti-corruption mechanisms at national level;

·  to promote co-operation in the fight against corruption by state parties; and

·  to harmonise anti-corruption national legislation in the region.

 The Protocol provides for certain obligations to fight graft. These are preventive measures and mechanisms including:

·     development of code of conduct for public officials;

·   transparency in public procurement of goods and services;

·  easy access to public information;

·   protection of whistle blowers;

·  establishment of anti-corruption agencies;

·  develop systems of accountability and controls;

·  participation of the media and civil society; and

·  use of public education and awareness as a way of introducing zero tolerance for corruption.

Article VI of the Protocol criminalises the bribery of foreign officials. This is in line with the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Officials in International Business Transaction.

The Protocol also addresses the issue of proceeds of crime (money laundering) by allowing for their confiscation and seizure thereby making it more difficult to benefit from proceeds of corruption. The Protocol makes corruption or any of the offences under it an extraditable offence making it difficult for criminals to have a haven in one of the SADC countries. More so the Protocol can be a legal basis for extradition in the absence of a bilateral extradition treaty. The Protocol also provides for judicial cooperation and legal assistance among state parties.

Frankly, tackling corruption requires a multi-stakeholder approach.

Therefore, every citizen in countries within and across the SADC region must participate actively by supplying information which exposes corruption to authorities. 

Governments should also open communication lines so that the public can furnish them with all the necessary information.

December 2014
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