Saturday, January 04, 2014

Corruption In West African Countries

Poor public services in many West African countries, with already dire human development indicators, are under constant pressure from pervasive corruption. Observers say graft is corroding proper governance and causing growing numbers of people to sink into poverty.

 More West African countries were perceived to be highly corrupt in 2013 than the previous year due to the effects of political instability in countries such as Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, according to the corruption index compiled by the global watchdog, Transparency International

Bribery, rigged elections, shady contract deals with multinational businesses operating in the natural resources sector, and illicit cash transfers out of countries are some of the more common forms of graft. In sub-Saharan Africa, 90 percent of countries are seen to be corrupt, the watchdog said.
 “There is no doubt that corruption affects pure and sustainable development in West Africa, and there is no doubt that it most often affects the poorest and weakest portions of society.”
As much as US$1.3 trillion has been illegally transferred out of Africa in the past three decades, said a report by Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington-based advocacy group monitoring illicit financial flows.

Nigeria’s oil industry has been plagued by graft allegations that gave rise to complaints of neglect and a rebellion by people in the oil-producing southern regions. A draft report released in May 2013 by Liberia’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative noted that nearly all resource contracts signed since 2009 had violated regulations.

 Many political campaigns in Africa are fraught with allegations of irregularities and malpractice. “Not only are elections prone to corruption in the form of vote-rigging and fraud-monitoring, but by the way in which our political elites become entrenched in power,” said Tendai Murisa, director of TrustAfrica’s Agriculture Advocacy and Financial Flows programme.

“Corruption creates a way to perpetuate the regime, and one of the ways they perpetuate the regime is to buy votes, so that really affects the quality of democracy,” said Murisa, noting that a government deemed corrupt inspires little trust in the people, whose voices are often silenced or ignored when they speak out against graft.

Because the poor rely more on public services, they spend the largest percentage of their income on bribes to officials and even school administrators, so corruption pushes the most vulnerable further into poverty. In Sierra Leone, 69 percent of people think the police are corrupt, and in Nigeria the figure rises to 78 percent, said UNODC’s Lapaque.

  “If we just got back 50 percent of what we are currently losing to corruption, it could mean things like advancements in education or better road systems. We could make sure our children are back at school, we could make sure we are maintaining social welfare systems, and we could make sure our healthcare delivery systems are working properly.”

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