AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARIANS PUT HEADS TOGETHER TO COMBAT CORRUPTION
03 AUGUST 2016, MIDRAND, SOUTH AFRICA – How can Africa collectively address corruption? What measures can Members of Parliament (MPs) put in place to promote transparency in Member States?
Six Pan African Parliament (PAP) committees gathered in Midrand to answer critical questions about the African vision to combat unethical behaviour on the continent.
Africa loses US$50 to 90 billion per year due to fraudulent governments, said Jeggan Grey-Johnson from the Open Society Foundations’ Africa Regional Office (AfRO), during a joint workshop with the theme “Strategies for combatting corruption in Africa: Building Alliances, Exchanging Ideas and Maximising Political Will”.
The staggering figure is evident of the urgent need for continental mechanisms to fight corruption.
The widely attended workshop therefore placed emphasis on the legal frameworks available to PAP Members enabling them to oversee anti-corruption laws in their Member States.
Opening the session, Hon. Eduardo Joaquim Mulembwe, PAP’s First Vice President representing the southern region said governments and civil society have to collaborate to fight the injustices and imbalances of our continent, which prevent communities to benefit from national resources.
“Corruption destroys and undermines democracy and violates the fundamental rights of human beings. It facilitates crime, terrorism and many other societal problems. We hope that the MPs, through this workshop, will obtain knowledge that will help them fight corruption in Africa,” he said.
Hon. Daniel Batidam, the first speaker of the day and Chairperson of the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC), introduced the Board’s role to monitor, assess and encourage the adoption of anti-corruption measures.
As an AU organ, the Board has the mandate to encourage Member States to ratify the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption (AUPCC).
The Convention, adopted in 2003, encapsulates an African Anti-Corruption model law, which was presented to MPs during the workshop.
The AUABC model law proposes a legal blueprint for Member States to combat corruption.
In the absence of the PAP’s legislative power to yet implement its own model laws, the PAP can put forward recommendations about anti-corruption legislation, and use the existing AUABC model law as guidance for such recommendations.
This was the view of Advocate Herlu Smith, in a response to the challenge of slow ratification of the revised Protocol signed in Malabo, which will give the PAP the mandate to make model laws and submit to AU Member States for adoption.
“Parliamentarians should not be stuck on the term ‘model’ law’,” he said. “The PAP has an elevated status in terms of the revised protocol, but until such a time that ratification of 28 Members States have been received, we can make a recommendation on how we think countries should harmonise their anti-corruption laws,” said Advocate Smith.
Parliamentarians actively took part in the workshop debates and presentations.
In response to the first set of presentation by the AU corruption advisory board, Hon. Michael Temple, an MP from Swaziland, and Chairman on the Committee on Monetary & Financial Affairs, urged the presenter to be specific about the role MPs can play in terms of the AUPCC. “Yes, you want us to play a role; but what role do you want us to play?” he asked.
Hon. Batidam responded by saying that a good start is for MPs to advocate for the ratification and domestication of the AUABC’s anti-corruption model law in Member States.
To date, only 37 of the AU’s Member States have ratified. Seventeen countries, including Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cape Verde, Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Mauritania, Mauritius, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Sao Tome, Swaziland and Tunisia, are yet to ratify.
Hon. Batidam also urged MPs to join the African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption (APNAC), a voluntary network that promotes regional parliamentarian participation. “The AUABC works collaboratively from continental level down to the regions,” he said.
He said Africa has to reconsider its subjective view of a definition of corruption. “We have never asked ourselves, what the true problem of corruption is. There is too much disagreement. We have not established cross cutting standards,” he said. “Politicians are experts in pointing out the problems when in opposition, and experts in saying how they cannot solve them when they are in government,” he added in jest.
Job Oganda, a governance advisor in Kenya presented findings of the effectiveness of anti-corruption commissions in Eastern Africa. He highlighted that corruption-busting agencies are successful in fighting petty corruption activities such as bribes, but still fail to address grand state corruption.