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African anti-corruption convention: implementation is key

Transparency International calls on civil society to ensure effective monitoring of the Convention

A major African-initiated anti-corruption convention becomes effective on 5th August, sending a positive signal of improving transparency and good governance for the continent.

Fifteen countries have now ratified the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related Offences (AU Convention) and made a binding commitment to implement its provisions. Some 37 other African countries, however, have so far failed to ratify including Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya and Egypt.

Transparency International (TI) applauded the entry into force of the Convention, adopted two years earlier, that sets strong regional standards to practically fight corruption.

The organisation challenges African countries that have sat on the side-lines to demonstrate their commitment to the regional anti-corruption agenda: “Fifteen ratifications represent less than one-third of the membership of the African Union. Ratification must take place in a larger number of countries to truly affirm that African countries are indeed committed to combating the scourge of corruption,” said Akere Muna, Vice Chair of TI’s international movement.

The Convention requires African government officials to declare their assets, adhere to ethical codes of conduct, provide citizens access to government information about budget spending and to protect those who blow the whistle on state fraud.

Leading the way in certain aspects, the Convention establishes procurement standards, accounting standards, transparency in the funding of political parties and recognises the need for civil society participation. The Convention also requires African countries to establish as criminal offences bribery, diversion of property, trading in influence, illicit enrichment, money laundering and concealment of property.

In addition, a framework is provided for cross-border law enforcement cooperation within Africa. This is essential to ensure that no countries on the continent provide a safe haven for those from who steal from the public in other African countries nor for their stolen assets.

African countries need to do more than formally adopt this new, higher standards to prevent corruption. Giving the treaty teeth will require many further steps, Akere Muna noted: “Ratification is the beginning of a process and not an end to itself. The requirements of the Convention will now have to be translated into national laws, policies and practices and the appropriate institutions put in place at the level of the AU Commission. TI and its chapters in Africa will encourage the participation of civil society and media, as stated in article 12 of the Convention, in monitoring the implementation of the convention.”

The best way to keep up the momentum for implementation is to monitor the progress of countries on implementation of the requirement. The AU Convention provides for an Advisory Board to carry out this role. The AU must move swiftly to establish this Board and ensure that it is adequately resourced, professionally staffed, transparently run and that civil society has a recognised channel for making inputs to the review process.

“This Convention is a valuable tool for civil society organisations, trade unions and the private sector to hold their governments accountable,” said Gillian Dell, TI Programme Manager. ''They should seize the opportunity to mobilise public support for the Convention and press for ratification, implementation and monitoring. In particular, civil society groups in Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya and Egypt should demand to know why their governments have not yet ratified.''

The AU Convention was adopted by African Heads of State and Government in July 2003 at the AU summit in Maputo, Mozambique and required 15 ratifications before coming into force.

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Transparency International is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.

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