Workshop on Strengthening Transparency and Reducing Corruption Risks in Defense and Security Sectors Opens in Tunis

20/07/2009
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A workshop on strengthening transparency and reducing corruption risks in the defense and security sectors opened on Wednesday, July 22, 2009, in Tunis. The conference, which has brought together defense sector experts from across globe, representatives of defense ministries across the continent, officials of civil society organizations and the media, has been organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group and Transparency International (TI) in collaboration with the African Union.

Speaking during the opening session of the two-day event, the AfDB Operations Vice President, Zeinab El-Bakri, said 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.”

The workshop, she stressed, was “in line with the Bank’s pro-integrity agenda and its objective to build a platform which crystallizes Africa’s voice on transparency and anti-corruption; as well as to forge a pan-African consensus. There is already a wide consensus that peace and security are fundamental for who aspires to sustain development and growth. And this reality is already considered in our interventions, all the more so in fragile states and post-conflict areas. The concomitant endeavour to address corruption in key high-risk sectors contributes to the same goal. However, the success of our work rests on the governments’ ownership of efforts to tackle corruption, and strong international partnership between development partners, governments, the private sector and the civil society.”
Meanwhile, the Director of Transparency International’s Defense Programme, Mark Pyman, said during his presentation that corruption in defense impacted the military, development and good governance. He underscored that in order to build integrity and reduce corruption risk, defense establishments needed to know where the main vulnerabilities were and how well they were protected against such vulnerabilities. He pointed out that the largest opportunities for corruption occurred when oversight and control of defense establishments were weak.

“Officials who wield a high degree of discretion and who face limited scrutiny are more able to abuse their positions with less likelihood of being caught. Defense policy can be manipulated by the executive to provide funds for personal or political gain; without strong and clearly defined lines of leadership and accountability and oversight of defense budget and defense policy by parliamentary bodies, these can easily be manipulated so that they do no longer serve the public, but instead serve the interests of a predatory elite,” he said. 

Until recently, corruption in the defense sector has been regarded as a sensitive issue that must not be addressed in public. This has changed significantly over the last five years. Today, senior defense officials are concerned about the waste of scarce resources, while senior military officials are increasingly expressing concerns about the use of inappropriate equipment in the conduct of their missions. Based on its experience, TI is of the view that such senior officials are more willing to explore options of reducing this risk and workshops like the one that is being jointly organized by these three organizations is a way of exploring practical measures. The workshop is an important first step in putting such a topic up for discussion.