Universality of corruption: Not a Justification for Acceptability
The African Union ECOSOCC peace and security committee Chair, Professor Dole Kolawole has said that the universality of corruption cannot be a justification for its acceptability. Speaking on Wednesday, July 22, 2009, in Tunis within the framework of a workshop jointly organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group and Transparency International in collaboration with the African Union, Prof. Kolawole pointed out that corruption compromises rules, constraints development and tends to concentrate collective wealth in the hands of circumstantially privileged few.
He added that “corruption is a destructive and dysfunctional intrusion into the fabric of not only the society, but indeed any system. The extent and depth and pervasive incursion of it into all fabrics of African society were frightening. It has been difficult combating corruption in Africa because the guardians of the estate are the looters of the estate.”
He stressed that if there was a causal relationship between good governance and democracy, then it must also be acknowledged that democracy cannot grow on a soil of corruption neither can corruption serve as manure for democratic development, adding that “democracy can only survive when African leaders imbibe the values and ethos of public service, dignity of labor and uncompromising commitment to accountability, probity and transparency.”
Corruption, he said, throve in African societies because the societies themselves were tolerant of it. Leaders, he pointed out, were aware that corruption no longer carried the cancer of shame and opprobrium as it was the case in the past. He identified five reasons why corruption was difficult to be eradicated on the continent. The reasons included the people’s inability to hold their leaders accountable, the absence of institutions and structures of state that are well developed and strong enough to withstand and cope with tremors from accidental leaders, the failure of the society to continue believing in the importance of political integrity, the lack of effective weapons of deterrence and the absence of a rules-based society.
He however suggested ways of reducing corruption in the defense and security sectors. He called for the need to reinvent the wheel of public-spiritedness, adding that there must be a collective denunciation of corruption in high places.
Leaders, he said, must realize that “illegal encroachment on state resources deprives the state of sufficient resources to procure essential military and security wares to tender state security internally and externally.”
He also called for a regional anti-corruption agency as a fall-out of the expected resolve to collectively tackle corruption at the regional level. He called on the African Union to establish a special anti-corruption agency to monitor the incidences of corruption on the continent.
Meanwhile, the AfDB Operations Vice President, Zeinab El-Bakri, had said during the opening session of the workshop that the AfDB was committed to fighting corruption and eradicating the diversion of public resources in all its activities. She pointed out that “Internally, the Bank has strengthened its operations and procedures to systematically address governance and corruption in sector operations, whilst reinforcing its own financial management and procurement procedures. The Bank’s active portfolio of projects supporting governance in Africa also reflects this priority. The governance department alone currently funds three projects supporting anti-corruption measures, for a total amount of UA 34.5 million.
She added that “Fighting corruption in Africa requires visionary leadership, strong institutions and home-grown capacities. The military plays a key role in strengthening the integrity of the defense sector. As pointed out in the 2007 Global Corruption Barometer (GCB), the military is hailed in many countries as the least corrupt sector, just after religious groups and civil society organisations (CSOs). This leaves the institution well-positioned to contribute to curbing all rent-seeking activities. The Bank will hence seize this opportunity to leverage on joint anti-corruption efforts with the military, governments and civil society.”