Voice of Liberty Africa: Africa and the Burden of Corruption - Ogunyemi Bukola
Transparency International (TI)’s Corruption Perception Index, measures perceptions of public sector corruption around the world based on surveys taken of business executives and experts.
Published annually, the Corruption Perception Index draws upon a range of data sources to determine how corrupt countries' public sectors are perceived to be. This year, Botswana scored 65 points to emerge the least corrupt nation in Africa, and 30th overall, followed by Cape Verde, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Namibia, Ghana, Lesotho and South Africa. Crowding the bottom among the most corrupt in the world are Zimbabwe, Chad, Sudan and Somalia.
While some African leaders saw their nation’s standing in the 2012 Corruption Perception Index as a challenge to work harder towards eradicating corruption within their governments and the public service, others expressed cynicism and tried to put the blame on their citizens and the media.
Sudan's ranking on corruption perception index is only better than Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia in 2012. Sudanese officials including President Bashir have downplayed the level of corruption in the country calling it exaggerated. But the Inspector General's annual reports to the parliament including this year's continue to show cases of embezzlement and fraud within the government. For example it was found that the Ministry of International Cooperation used a $163 million grant from an unknown source with no indication of what it was spent on. The Inspector General further revealed that two grants from Algeria and Qatar did not appear in the books of the finance ministry and its whereabouts are unknown.
Earlier this year Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir established an anti-graft agency in response to growing concern over corruption and what is seen as lack of accountability in that area. However so far nothing has emerged from the agency on its corruption probe.
Meanwhile, President Michael Sata of Zambia, whose country was ranked 13th least corrupt nation in Africa and 88th in the world, has said the government will not relent in devising strategies and enacting laws that will ensure the eradication of corruption in Zambia.
Mr Sata said Zambia had experienced suffering at the few hands of unscrupulous and selfish individuals who had demonstrated no regard for other people's rights and privileges. He stated that fighting corruption demands resilience, dedication and patriotism for the country. "As such, any person who is suspected to have broken the law and is found wanting, regardless of their political affiliation or social status, will be dealt with by the long arm of the law. Our society needs to be constantly reminded that corruption is evil just like murder. So we must all pledge to fight corruption which in itself was an injustice, evil and act of self-centredness," he said.
Meanwhile, Africa’s second largest economy Nigeria was adjudged the 15th most corrupt nation in Africa, and 35th most corrupt in the world. This did not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the operations of government agencies and officials in Nigeria, and some would even argue that the ranking flattered the true situation of things in a nation which was ranked the 2nd most corrupt in the world less than two decades ago. One is tempted to agree as a recent Gallup Poll revealed the government of Nigeria to be the second most corrupt on the continent.
If Nigerians had any hope that the ranking would be a wake-up call to government to be more pro-active in the fight against corruption, their hopes were quickly dashed. Nigeria’s federal government took exception to the ugly image of the man in the mirror, and decided to put the blame on the mirror. The government through the Minister for Information, Mr Labaran Maku, said both the Transparency International report and the Gallup Poll were products of interactions with Nigerians and synopsis of negative media reports, and appealed to the media and the people of the country to help it present a better image of the nation to the world.
The facts however argue otherwise. Despite the humongous salaries and allowances carted away monthly by political office holders, much of the revenue left in their care for the execution of essential capital projects are greedily pocketed, resulting in huge infrastructural deficits and a depressing state of poverty and under-development. One of Nigeria’s leading newspapers, The Punch, recently stated that about N5 trillion has been lost to corruption under the government of President Goodluck Jonathan. Many of the ministers in his cabinet have been indicted of corruption and abuse of office in one report or the other and yet have not been arrested or prosecuted, and the President himself is said to have his handwriting over many shady deals and corrupt ventures in governance.
Countries on the continent of Africa are now perhaps more than ever before, seriously living with the burden of corruption, putting a lot of families at a disadvantage while hindering sound economic growth and development. Corruption in government and the public sector is one of the leading socio-economic challenges facing African nations. Corruption represents a major threat to good governance, social justice and equitable distribution of wealth and resources and contributes in no small measure to the under-development of nations and deprives citizens of a better and dignified life which they are entitled to.
African leaders should rise up to the challenge of fighting corruption in government and the public sector, for without this no meaningful sustainable development can arise on the continent.
- Ogunyemi Bukola contributes regularly to the Voice of Liberty Africa (VOLA) Project regularly from Nigeria.