Thursday, February 25, 2010

Anti-Corruption Laws, Good Governance, Accountability in Africa

NEWS BANJUL, THE GAMBIA (MB)-For many countries in Africa, corruption remains pervasive because the laws and institutions which exist to combat it are either inadequate or ineffective. The problem sometimes is that corrupt leaders, who are lawmakers, do not make laws to curb corruption because they would by so doing be creating problems for themselves.
On the other hand, the fight against corruption goes beyond merely enacting laws that states corruption is illegal and once discovered is punishable under the country's law. However, the legislative framework is the starting point in the fight against corruption, " if the laws are to be implemented," coupled with it is the need to have political will on the part of political leadership of a country.
This is because some countries have good pieces of legislation, which paint an impressive picture of the legal framework but remains ineffective when it comes to implementation.
Without a strong political commitment, the good laws will not achieve the desired result of being effective tools for fighting corruption. Going through, one can define corruption as a scourge, a menace, a disease and an epidemic. It is corruption that affects a country most, because it is the wealth or resources which, instead of going to the general public for the public good, end up getting into private pockets, which can be defined as "dishonest or illegal", why this in Africa?
From this point of view, more work needs to be done in Africa to combat the menace of corruption, as it has been widely acknowledged that it poses a threat both to human development and to the security of a country. Economically, corruption has disastrous effects and is even evil. Weak economies that characterise most African countries are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of corruption. Corruption undermines democracy and the rule of law. It impedes development and weakens social stability and the end result could be conflict in a country.
Much of the poverty in Africa can be attributed to poor governance, in addition, poor governance in itself is caused by, corruption coupled with bad policies formulated and implemented by governments, among other things. Infact, when one talks of corruption, it is unavoidable not to talk also of good governance. Good governance means a system of governance that is free of abuse and corruption and which pays due regard to the rule of law. Good governance needs organised and informed participation in public affairs of all and sundry, such participation could either be direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives.
Transparency counts a lot when we talk about good governance, on the other hand, accountability also plays a crucial role in good governance, that is governmental institutions, private sector, and civil society organisations must be accountable to the public and their institutional stakeholders.
Corruption thrives more easily in circumstances where there is no transparency or accountability on the part of government to the citizens.
Accountability ensures that all actions taken by public officials are subjected to scrutiny by the citizenry, and their participation is deemed necessary to ensure that public system are free of corruption, this can happen if they are part and parcel of the whole process.
However, there is need to have a vibrant civil society and media to act as a check on the actions taken by the government, this can be found in article 4 of the African Union Convention on Corruption and Related Offences. This article deals at length with what the civil society and the media are to do in the fight against corruption and the actions that states parties are to take to ensure that these players are allowed space to play their role.
Public accountability has been measured by looking at whether or not the government consults its citizens through open and free discussions that affects the public. These discussions can be through the media using it pages to disseminate the information to the public, with this point African leaders need to know that free and independent press counts a lot.
If the fight against corruption is to be won in Africa, all the elements necessary for its eradication must be present, these includes public participation in the democratic process, accountability of all institutions, the presence of watchdog institutions and effective anti-corruption strategies that have political support and coherence.
Where any of these elements are lacking or in effective, anti-corruption goals will not be easy to achieved, the media needs to be given access to information in cases of corruption and related offences.
An independent press is essential in the fight against corruption because for the war against corruption to be won there is need to expose corruption wherever it occurs, by naming and shaming the perpetrators.
Sometimes just naming and shaming can do the trick of reducing corruption, in addition another tool to measure the extent of compliance with the commitment will be the collaboration, if any, that the government has had with the media in action plans to fight corruption. This will include the participation by the media in any workshops and seminars that would have been arraigned by the government where the input of the media has been made.

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