JOHANNESBURG – The Board rapporteur of the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC), Advocate Sefako Seema, this week called on African countries to ratify the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC). The is meant to domesticate the Convention in order to expedite continental efforts to tackle the scourge of corruption.
Seema, a Lesotho citizen, made the remarks while speaking at a webinar hosted by the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) to commemorate the 4th African Anti-Corruption Day. On July 11 annually the continent commemorates African Anti-Corruption Day, during which time countries take stock of how far the continent has moved towards addressing corruption. The AUCPCC was adopted in Maputo, Mozambique on July 11 2003 and came into force in 2006, and this year’s commemoration was held under the theme: ‘Sustaining the fight against corruption in Africa in the time of COVID-19 pandemic.’
The AU declared 2018 the year of Combatting Corruption in Africa and earmarked July 11 as the African Anti-Corruption day. This declaration followed a clarion call to action made by PAP, AUABC and CSOs in 2016 to recognise the forms of corruption and eliminate opportunities that perpetuate it. Seema pointed out that as governments try to fight COVID-19 it presents loopholes which some unscrupulous officials take advantage of to steal. Domesticating the AU convention enables countries to strengthen their capacity to tackle corruption, he said.
He noted: “To date, it has been ratified by 44 AU member states out of 55 countries. Since adoption of the Convention, states have made significant strides in the fight against corruption, including the enactment of national laws and the creation of anti-corruption agencies. “The theme chosen by the PAP is pertinent as this year’s commemoration looked at the prevailing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on the demand for accountability and transparency in the utilisation of resources earmarked for the management of this crisis.”
He reminded the continent that the convention dictates that countries establish anti-corruption agencies which operate freely without interference from politicians or government. Seema said the convention spells out how countries can improve its institutions to fight corruption. Transparency International, Regional Advisor for East Africa, Paul Banoba, said COVID-19 was giving some people an opportunity to steal. He said some money meant for Ebola in Sierra-Leone from the Red Cross as well as funds meant to fight HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria from the Global Fund, were looted.
Banoba said loopholes have to be closed in tendering and provision of services in response to COVID-19, calling for data to be kept on all actions where money is involved from donations to beneficiaries. He added that “the rapid spread of COVID-19 did not allow for proper checks and balances to be put in place in the way resources are being spent. The urgency of delivering assistance has, on many occasions, circumvented standard procedures or overlooked transparency, particularly in procurement. “Participation from every stakeholder is essential in creating appropriate measures to tackle corruption with parliamentary oversight at the centre of every action.”
PAP Vice-President, Chief Fortune Charumbira, made a clarion call on African countries to have a zero tolerance for corruption. He said some countries tend to “catch and release” where they arrest, only to release without any further action taken on corrupt individuals just to woodwink the public. Charumbira, who is also a traditional chief in Zimbabwe, said in some African countries the “big fish” were not arrested while only insignificant individuals were called to account for their actions. He said in his country health minister, Obadiah Moyo, was fired for corruption in tenders related to providing services for COVID-19.
Charumbira called on the African legislators to play their oversight role to ensure that there is no corruption during the COVID-19 era. Charumbira said, “parliamentarians can play a role in curbing corruption during these difficult times by ensuring, among other things, that state institutions that are tasked with defeating corruption are adequately resourced and competent to execute their mandate. “With governments taking a series of important decisions and allocating resources in the fight against COVID-19, this has created an opportunity for corrupt practices.”
Seema, who is Lesotho’s chief prosecutor with the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO), was elected to the AU Advisory Board on Corruption in 2019, having led the DCEO after the Acting Director-General, Advocate Borotho Matsoso, was suspended having been with the anti-graft body since 2010. Seema was elected at the 34th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the Union, for a second stint after his initial tour in 2015. Seema is in the position on a two year-term after he was elected with Begoto Miarom from Chad, Andramfidy Jean Louis from Madagascar, Ng’andu Agness Kayobo of Zambia, Gnansounou Afiavi of Benin and Bamouni from Burkina Faso. Lesotho stands on a 40/100 score in the 2019 Transparency International Corruption Index which ranked the country 85 out of 180 countries.