A dictionary defines corruption as 'to make impure, to make morally unsound, to act dishonestly, to pervert, to bribe.' And corruption is manifested most often through the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.
According to International Chamber of Commerce 'corruption is the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development around the world.' In other words - corruption and poverty go hand-in-hand. According to ONE at least US$1 trillion (£800bn) is being taken out of developing countries each year through a web of corrupt activity that involves shady deals for natural resources, the use of anonymous shell companies, money laundering and illegal tax evasion. The World Bank calculates that another US$2.6 trillion (£2 trillion) is stolen through corruption each year.
Left unchecked corruption chokes progress by constantly gnawing away at the very heart of economic development. Corruption undercuts the state's ability to raise revenues, leads to higher taxes, robs people of their wealth, poisons human relations, paralyses initiative, discourages investment in new enterprises, encourages dealings in the 'black market', promotes conflict and destroys confidence in government institutions. All of which ensures sclerotic economic growth and consequent under investment in vital areas like agriculture, water, infrastructure, health and education.
Examples of corruption can be found in rich countries as well as poor. At one time recently four of the past seven governors of the US state of Illinois went to prison for corruption. And in 2015 several UK MPs were found to have been abusing their expenses allowances. At the same time, respect for commercial banks in the UK has never been lower as a result of recent scandals which include pensions mis-selling, endowment mortgage fraud, the payment protection insurance scam, LIBOR rigging, tax evasion and insider trading. Also London-based HSBC was found to have had lax controls that allowed Latin American drug cartels to launder hundreds of millions of dollars which resulted in a fine of US$1.9bn (£1.5bn). Then there was the racketeering that has gone on in football (soccer), the 'beautiful game', under former president Sepp Blatter at the Zurich-based FIFA, the governing body of world football. Here the US Justice Department charged most of Blatter's FIFA executive alleging that they accepted multi-million dollar kickbacks over 24 years and which resulted in Blatter having to stand down. And now in athletics, Lamine Diack, the former head of the International Association of Athletics federations (IAAF), is to stand trial on charges of corruption and money laundering whilst the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has levelled allegations of cheating and doping against athletes from several countries including Russia, Turkey, Kenya and Ukraine saying that authorities in these countries turned a blind eye.
Corruption, however, is more detrimental and happens more readily in the developing world through lack of transparency, patronage politics, a large public sector, endless bureaucracy, weak institutions and poor pay. And in Africa, it is almost expected, as traditionally the Big Man (president) is entitled to enrich himself at the expense of others. In his State of the Nation speech in October, 2013, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, President of Angola, went even further demanding that he be allowed 'to act with the impunity enjoyed by rulers in feudal times' and went on to incite African leaders to loot their countries' resources and to exploit and neglect their people!
According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation corruption costs Africa US$148bn per annum which is equivalent to 50% of the continent's tax revenue and 25% of its GDP. This has a devastating effect on government services leaving ordinary people without vital help in time of need. In his book, The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier tells how a sum of money was tracked from its release by the Ministry of Finance in Chad to its intended destination at a rural health clinic. On the course of its journey there no less than 99% of the money disappeared denying sick people vital medicines and potentially life-saving treatment. And in its latest Global Corruption Barometer - Africa 2019, Transparency International indicates that 8 out of 10 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have to pay a bribe to access public services.
nations, then, corruption is a hole in the heart bleeding the very life-blood
out of their economies, holding back progress and stifling development
and in some countries it is so entrenched that it will take decades to
weed out completely and even then only if governments are determined to
Other forms of corruption include bribing public officials (e.g. according to the World Bank in 2011 80% of businesses in Nigeria paid bribes to government officials in order to stay in business.) In a recent survey it was found that 80% of householders in Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe have to pay the police before they get any service. Parents in Kenya have to pay bribes to get their babies' birth certificates and children must pay bribes to bury their parents. And according to Kenya's anti-corruption watchdog there is a cost to report a crime, go to college or even get a job. In Uganda a government report in 2012 found that there were 'ghost' teachers earning salaries and 'ghost' pupils boosting attendance in most of the country's schools. And in the case of the latter it was estimated that, on average, this increased primary school enrolment by 21%. Large government contracts always give a more lucrative return than small ones e.g. a contract to build a road would generate a larger bribe than one to fill in the potholes. Similarly contracts to buy defence equipment are all too often favoured over the dire need for rural health clinics for the same reason.
It is also
reckoned that across the world US$500bn in health resources is lost annually
to corruption. On that calculation it is estimated that 140,000 child
deaths can be equated to this every year. Corruption in health doesn't
just involve patients having to pay bribes it can also mean pharmaceutical
companies adjusting clinincal trial data as well as contracts for the
building of hospitals being given by procurement officers to old friends
by giving them the heads-up.
2) after returning from a fact-finding mission to oil-rich Equatorial Guinea in August, 2011, Nadine Dorries MP stated that 'the government of Equatorial Guinea exists to increase the personal wealth and political power of the ruling class at the expense of the wider population. During a meeting with the prime minister this was stated more or less explicitly in response to our probing and was non-negotiable.'
3) in Kenya, the government of Daniel Arap Moi, in its 24 years in power,
is alleged to have amassed personal fortunes for its members beyond the
wildest dreams of most Kenyans. Moi ruled through patronage and the pillaging
of state assets and is reported to have kept three suitcases of cash on
his desk for visitors. The end result was that when he left office in
2002 Kenya was effectively bankrupt. State concerns had been bled dry,
public services were barely functioning, potholes made roads almost impassable
and not surprisingly donors had broken off relations. In total it is estimated
that at least $2.2bn was lost to corruption during Moi's reign - enough
to have funded primary education for every boy and girl for a decade.
But his team of ministers are still smiling - for few are expected to
face charges for the years of misrule, let alone for their ill-gotten
gains. And things have not changed in Kenya. In a report in July 2015,
by Professor Githu Muigai, the attorney-general, he described the massive
gap between intention and reality in the country claiming that 'only 1%
of government spending was accounted for in the financial year 2013/14.'
The report was full of allegations of theft, incompetence, waste, misspending
and corruption on a colossal scale.
the scourge of corruption in Africa shows no sign of abating:
6) In August 2020 the Central Bank of South Sudan, the world's youngest
nation, announced that it had run out of foreign exchange reserves. Those
in charge of this trusted bastion of the state's resources through incompetence,
malfeasance and exploitation of a dual exchange rate for the South Sudan
Pound had betrayed their people by emptying the state's coffers. To add
to this humiliation the Economic Crisis Management Committee set up to
investigate this heinous embarrassment will be headed up by some of those
whose job it was to keep the reserves secure including the central bank
governor! The IMF ranks this land as the poorest in the world. And with
its leaders acting like this, no wonder!
Suharto, 1967-98 President of Indonesia - $25bn
more recent reprehensible examples of corruption from sub-Saharan Africa
In 1887, Lord Acton stated that 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.' Since independence swept over the continent in the 1950s/60s for Africa, at any rate, this maxim would appear to hold true.
But it didn't have to be like this. Contrast Africa with what happened in south-east Asia in the last half century. For example, at independence in 1965, the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, recognised that in order to attract foreign investment which would deliver jobs one of the first things he would need to do would be establish trust in the country. To this end he established the rule of law, made the judiciary independent and set up a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau with the power to investigate any minister or civil servant right to the very top. Anyone found guilty of embezzlement would immediately be dismissed. The rest, as they say, is history and today Singapore is one of the most advanced nations on the planet. If African leaders had been less predatory and more pragmatic their people would not be struggling as they are today.
As mentioned above the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index for 2019 shows that only 6 African nations recorded a score of 5 or above - Seychelles 6.6; Botswana 6.1; Cape Verde 5.8; Rwanda 5.3; Namibia 5.2; Mauritius 5.2. And of these countries 3 are island states. That means on the entire African mainland only THREE countries are more honest than corrupt which means that 45 nations are failing their people. And nothing will change anytime soon for most African leaders seem to take the view of Hifikepunye Pohamba, former President of Namibia, who stated in a speech in March, 2014 that it is 'not for me as president to investigate corruption.' By signalling such inaction it suggests that he is condoning corruption and it is time for the outside world to waken up and recognise that this is the situation throughout most of Africa.
When white minority rule persisted in South Africa it wasn't long before campaigners of the like of Bishop Trevor Huddleston set up the Anti-Apartheid Movement which resulted in sanctions being levelled on the white South African government. After many years this eventually led to the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and, in time, black rule. But black rule right throughout the continent has only ever encompassed minority rule. For in most African nations the ruling class cling on to power at all costs meaning those in power have the freedom to do what they want and for as long as they want. And for those elites corruption has become a way of life. But where are the campaign groups in the West today protesting against this injustice? They are nowhere to be seen for they fear being accused of racism or neo-colonialism. But it can never be racist to condemn the robber barons in governments across the continent whose profligacy deny children proper schools and families food, clean water and decent medical centres. At the same time roads remain potholed, overgrown and unmade whilst power supplies remain unpredictable at best.
That is why it is time for Western governments, international NGOs, rich Americans, churches, pop star philanthropists and poverty campaigners to face reality and to start to challenge governments who rob their people of a decent life. To this end all Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) and investment in countries where corruption goes unchallenged should be re-directed until it can be seen that leaders there are starting to take the problem seriously and doing something about it.
fight against corruption will need to be relentless - day in, day out,
year after year - until the message finally gets through. For unless the
leader of a country leads by example in his/her determination to confront
corruption and is seen to be doing so, NOTHING WILL CHANGE.
Then to back all this up the following also needs to happen:-
training and paying decent salaries to civil servants/ police / medical
staff and teachers on time every month so that they are in a position
to lead by example.
a free press and media.
encourage whistle-blowing and ensure protection of informers.
periodic meetings in which government ministers can be questioned and held to account by civil society.
In this way not only will the people of that country soon start to see a difference - outside investors, too, will take note and start to look at investment opportunities. And with that investment will come badly needed jobs, better pay, new technologies whilst ancillary industries will be set up.
INTERNATIONAL ATTEMPTS AT COMBATING CORRUPTION
On 11 July, 2017 the African Union expressed its commitment to the fight against corruption by adopting the AU Convention Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC) to mark the first African Anti-Corruption Day. The AU Assembly also declared 2018 'African Anti-Corruption Year.' However, this is the AU which has a long list of promises on corruption but has rarely delivered and there is no reason to assume things are about to change now. In a recent poll by Afrobarometer taken over 36 countries, 55% of Africans said corruption had increased in recent years. Another study by anti-corruption agencies in southern Africa found that the judiciary, police and customs officials were often the biggest part of the problem.
UN CONVENTION AGAINST CORRUPTION (UNCAC) This resolution was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 31 October, 2003 and came into force on 14 December, 2005. To date in 2020 it has been ratified by over 140 nations including the UK. However, more than 180 countries have agreed all aspects of preventing, investigating and prosecuting corrupt practices; returning stolen assets and supporting each other on extraditions, investigations and prosecutions. UNCAC also provides for an international framework which has the potential to improve mutual law enforcement assistance, notably in extradition and investigations as well as an asset recovery framework. The more countries that ratify this agreement and are seen to be taking it seriously the more corruption will be curtailed with the welcome bonus that international co-operation has the potential to see ill-gotten gains recovered. (Since 2006 the UK Department for International Development has part-funded two anti-corruption units: The Metropolitan Police Proceeds of Corruption Unit, and the Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit (OA-CU). The Met Unit's main task is to investigate allegations of money laundering by senior public figures from developing countries through the UK financial sector. The OA-CU primarily investigates allegations of corruption and bribery by UK companies or nationals engaged overseas.)
OECD CONVENTION ON COMBATING BRIBERY OF FOREIGN PUBLIC OFFICIALS When
it comes to signing contracts there are, of course, always two parties
involved - typically a government official and a businessman. The businessman
will say that he has to go along with paying the bribe or he will lose
the contract to a rival. Not any longer, however. Thanks to organisations
like TI, the OECD has drawn up the Convention on Combating Bribery of
Foreign Public Officials. This anti-bribery legislation in 2017 has now
been signed by all 36 OECD countries and 8 non-members - Argentina, Brazil,
Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Russia and South Africa - and seeks
to prevent individuals and companies, at home or abroad, giving bribes
to foreign officials in order to secure a contract. This is a very welcome
move but it would be even better if companies from the above 44 nations
were to apply this legislation to the foreign-owned subsidiaries of their
own domestic companies too.
EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE (EITI) Better known as Publish What You Pay. This initiative was launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 and its aim is to increase transparency over payments by international companies in the extractive industries to governments and government-owned entities throughout the world. Revenues from oil, gas and mining in the form of taxes, royalties etc should be an important engine in economic growth and social development in poor countries. However, lack of accountability and transparency in these payments often leads to much of the proceeds being unaccounted for. In 2010, the US government gave EITI a major boost by passing the Dodd-Frank Act requiring all oil, gas and mining companies registered/doing business in the US to annually disclose what they pay to foreign governments over US$100,000 by country, and by project. This was a major step forward although industry bodies in the US are currently filing a suit against the US Securities and Exchange Commission arguing that it puts American companies at a disadvantage vis-a-vis their global rivals. However, in April, 2013, the European Union followed suit requiring all EU-listed public and private companies to publish all payments made over 100,000 Euros including taxes, royalties and licence fees. For the UK, from 1 January, 2015, companies have to disclose payments over £85,000 on a project-by-project basis in developing countries or face criminal charges. Currently 52 nations provide at least project level reporting under EITI.
In developing countries where trained accountants, civil servants, customs officers, tax inspectors etc are often scarce, rich countries could offer to help train able people from these countries on condition that on completion of their training they returned to their own countries.
If the signatories of the above conventions and agreements were determined to follow through then there would be a chance that some headway would be being made in the battle against corrupt practices. But there is scant evidence that this is happening so far.
And so, as far as corruption is concerned in sub-Saharan Africa, it will take years, if not decades, to weed it out. In some countries, like Nigeria, where the governor of the Central Bank accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation of being unable to account for US$50bn worth of oil sales for the period January 2012 to July 2013, it could take most of this century. For progress in Nigeria in tackling this insidious problem is slow to non-existent even with every new president promising much when taking office.
all nations in sub-Saharan Africa could be as determined as Botswana in
dealing with the problem. Here, as visitors make their way through the
arrivals hall at Gaborone Airport, they are met with this poster 'Botswana
has zero tolerance for corruption. It is illegal to offer or ask for a
from Africa that is quite a statement and the Botswana government can
be proud of being identified as the least corrupt country in the whole
of the African landmass - by a mile.