The chairman of Liberia’s Governance Commission (GC), Dr. Amos C. Sawyer has called on all African nations to support the fight against corruption so as to ensure that the continent succeeds in overcoming the extreme state of poverty which still remains a nightmare haunting the continent’s population.
“Corruption is a monster that can affect all of our institutions and processes of governance. It undermines economic development initiatives, perverts decision-making processes, shifts resources away from productive uses and contributes to the resilience of poverty and disease in our societies,” Dr. Sawyer said.
Delivering his keynote speech at the conference on Corruption and the Challenge of Economic Transformation, held in Botswana, Southern Africa and the Consultative Meeting of National Anti-Corruption Institutions in Southern Africa on Monday, June 18, Dr. Sawyer said “weak institutions and processes of state governance produce perversities among which are corrupt acts.”
He pointed out that the fight against corruption has to be seen as an enduring struggle to improve the quality of governance in all domains of governance and at all levels of governance.
“The quality of governance has to do with ensuring that the institutions and processes of governance and the actors involved in governance, perform their various duties and responsibilities with accountability, transparency, and in a manner that is inclusive,” Sawyer said.
He noted that all of the authoritative studies on corruption recommend that Africans adopt a holistic approach to combat corruption due to the magnitude of its impact, especially of the international dimensions of corruption and the nature of the linkages between local, national and international institutions and actors in the occurrence of corrupt practices as well as in combatting the devilish act.
According to him, a holistic approach to combatting corruption requires a good understanding of how institutional flaws can produce perverse incentives and how actors can pervert weak institutions to achieve outputs and outcomes which were not intended when those institutions were conceptualized and designed.
“We also have to understand and appreciate that when weak institutions are perverted (corrupt) and operate across levels of governance, they can generate synergies (collaborations) which make corruption sustainable and resilient. That is how corruption becomes a culture,” he said, adding “Let me say that the synergies I am talking about do not only develop among government institutions but within all realms of governance such as the media, civil society, religious organizations and others in various domains of governance can become complicit.”
Sawyer said “Over the last twenty years, we in Africa have become preoccupied with the question of quality of governance in the various countries on our continent. We have struggled to end autocratic government, entrench constitutionalism, establish independent legislatures and judiciaries, introduce electoral democracy and allow space for civil society. We have introduced market reforms and are now seeking to transform our economies through industrialization to raise the living standards of our people.”
The Liberian statesman said his idea is that Africans need to pay more attention than they do now to the level of accountability, transparency and the inclusive nature of political parties in view of the critical role they play in governance.
“Political parties are the instruments through which leaders of the executive and legislature are selected. They mobilize human and material resources to elect leaders. Political parties advance ideologies and formulate platforms upon which they canvass the support of the people and govern the state,” he said.
He added that political parties build coalitions that bring people of various perspectives and backgrounds together to exercise power or pull people apart and marginalize groups of people and that they are among the institutions that exert the most pressure on leaders for better or worse.
Sawyer said “At the continental level, Agenda 2063, the Africa We Want, is such a simple but powerful expression of aspirations that all Africans can understand it and be made a part of it.”
On the impact of executive dominance in governance, he said legislative oversight is not always as strong and effective as required to sustain good governance.
“Besides factors such as low staff capacity and material capacity of legislative committees, other obstacles are often found in the nature of the governance environment where the Legislature is dominated by the ruling party and the ruling party is dominated by the president and, more importantly, the commitment to promoting accountability is weak or spasmodic,” he said.
Sawyer recommended that across Africa, however, there is a need for anti-corruption institutions to meet together frequently at sub-regional levels and draw from the experience of one another.
He added that it is also important that civil society organizations and the media within various countries support and are seen to be supporting the anti-corruption institutions.
He suggested that legislatures of various countries’ governments should be more involved in oversight of the performance of these institutions.
“There are situations in Africa where legislators over time, develop a perverse solidarity among themselves, across party lines and arrogate to themselves certain special privileges not intended by constitutions or covered by codes of conduct. They raise their salaries and benefits unreasonably and disproportionately, claim other privileges, and behave in ways that are not exemplary and as a consequence, they do not only undermine their own authority to promote good governance but further corrupt the system of governance,” he said.
He added that in his view, there needs to be certain agreed formula for setting the salaries and benefits of legislators in Africa and such formula should take into account the country’s economic challenges, the size of the budget, the ratio of payroll costs to development expenditure, the salary scale of civil servants and other factors such that legislative salaries and benefits are aligned with other expenditures.
“Misuse and abuse of Executive Power can immediately undermine the integrity of public institutions: frustrate public servants and encourage hostility toward honest public servants and public institutions that try to do their jobs properly and the cascading (flowing) effects of Executive corruption can go all the way down such that little people who engage in petty corruption grow comfortable in their actions while safeguarding the Executive against corruption is absolutely critical to reducing corruption in governance of the state and promoting good governance in other sectors of society,” he said.
Dr. Sawyer thanked the government of Botswana for hosting the conference and called on them and the entire African continent to persevere harder in order to see Africa redeems itself from the shackles of underdevelopment and poverty.