January last year, African leaders gathered for their annual retreat in Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia, committed themselves, once again, to combating corruption.
At the opening ceremony of the 30th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU), the continental body launched their theme for the year: “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”
It is observed that the retreat that corruption is indeed one of the greatest evils of our time. Leaders at the AU agreed to enforce the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, a policy adopted in July 2003, but as of December 2018, 40 of 55 countries had ratified it.
They also recognised that critical to dealing with the problem, was the need for strong and independent institutions that were committed to carrying out their duties sans fear or favour.
While the talk of dealing with corruption has been widespread, it is in the action and implementation that little has been yielded.
March 2015 saw the chief executive of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission Ngonidzashe Gumbo imprisoned for defrauding the commission of $435 000. Gumbo was also a former Senior Assistant Commissioner of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. So what needs to be done to tackle corruption in Zimbabwe? It starts with political will.
Strong institutions are the pillars of dealing with corruption, but there are other measures that the Government and the wider public need to consider.
Some suggestions by the World Bank include paying civil servants well, as studies show “there is an inverse relationship between the level of public sector wages and incidence of corruption”. Another is creating transparency and openness in Government spending.
A major consideration for the Government in fighting corruption is cutting red tape and improving the ease of doing business. Aligning laws to the Constitution is the fundamental first step in this process, similar to suggestions proffered by Rose-Ackerman (1998).
The World Bank also proposes deploying smart technology. In India, an online platform “I Paid a Bribe” allows the public to anonymously report where and when they were coerced to engage in corruption or when they received good service.
Although the system is not fool-proof, it provides a means for corruption to be exposed and a record of offences.
A year after the AU pledged to win the fight against corruption, the battle rages on. How to deal with the problem has already been defined, discussed and debated. What remains is getting the job done.
“Corruption, embezzlement, fraud, these are all characteristics which exist everywhere. It is regrettably the way human nature functions, whether we like it or not. What successful economies do is keep it to a minimum. No one has ever eliminated any of that stuff..”