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Dingake talks corruption in Africa

Director of Proceedings, permit me to express my sincere gratitude to the organisers of this event for inviting me to participate in today's activities as a guest speaker.

It is a beautiful feeling – one difficult to describe to see you here in the Pacific – in PNG, contributing in one way or the other to the development of PNG as global citizens.

I am advised that the theme for this year is: “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”.

I consider this year’s theme to be most appropriate because time is overdue for Africans to recommit themselves, wherever in the world they may be, to fight corruption, to expose it wherever it may be found, and to ensure that those that are found to have perpetuated this crime are brought before our courts and if found guilty, to be duly punished, the proceeds of crime retrieved and deployed for legitimate development programmes.

My basic premise of departure is that corruption in Africa violates human rights and retards development. It directly fuels injustice, inequalities in health and education – with the poorest of the poor coming out as the worst victims.

In Africa, the social and political consequences of corruption have contributed to the triple burden of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

It has bred migration, instability and violence in many of our countries.

Corruption can take many forms.

It can range from being petty to being massive, often involving criminal networks that are bleeding the country to its knees. It always involves the abuse of power for personal gain.

In 2016, a Report by the United National Economic Commission on Africa, estimated that illicit financial flows in Africa increased from $20 billion in 2001 to $60 billion in 2010.

A joint report by the African Development Bank and Global Financial Integrity found that up to 65% of lost revenue disappeared in transactions involving multinational companies.

Research has established that about 45% of the wealth from illicit flaws ends up in offshore financial centres, and 55% in developed countries. Oxfam has estimated that Africa loses about $14 billion in tax revenue every year.

It is estimated that in the past 50 years about $1 trillion has been lost to the continent through corrupt activities, money that could been used to tackle poverty, build hospitals, schools and attend to other development concerns such as financing the fight against the scourge of HIV/AIDS that is ravaging our people.

Many of our governments are still struggling to finance debilitating scourges as HIV, TB and Malaria from domestic funds.

The Abuja commitment that African governments must commit 15% of their government resources to health is not being met because of runaway corruption in our countries.

In 2016, Oxfam estimated that the annual loss of African tax revenues every year to corruption would pay for health care that could save lives of as many as four million children a year.

Research has also established that there is a correlation between corrupt activities in any country and the level of development.

It has been shown that in countries where more than 60% of people report paying a bribe, almost five times more people live on less than US$ 1 a day, compared to places where less than 30% of the population reports paying bribes.

Countries most hard hit by corruption have instances of higher maternal mortality rates and children dying before they reach the age of five.

It is also reported that in countries where corruption is rife, half of the school children do not complete primary school and face the future of poverty and marginalisation. In Africa, corruption is arguably one of the main challenges that impede development.

Many of our countries that are endowed with abundance of minerals have nothing to show in terms of development of

their people.

Instead these countries are afflicted with instability, violence and hunger.

Transparency International has consistently revealed that Africa is the home of some of the most corrupt States on earth.

In 2015, the World Bank found that companies owned by a former President of an African Country and his inner circle had defrauded their country as much as US$2.6 billion over seven years’ period; and that during the time that leader was in office his family amassed US$13 billion – more than one – third of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

In an attempt to fight corruption, many African countries have established Anti-Corruption bodies – many of whom are under-resourced and captives of the Executive, with the result that government officials who engage in corruption are never investigated and if found to have been corrupt, arrested and charged – and this neglect unfortunately teaches the broader citizenry that there is nothing wrong with corruption.

In some countries where corruption is considered a capital crime and high ranking officials are arrested openly and prosecuted, levels of corruption have dropped dramatically.

We have structures to fight corruption at the continental and or sub regional levels such as African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUC PPC) – whose implementing arm is called the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC).

Over 34 countries have signed the Convention.

There are also accompanying protocols meant to fight corruption.

The problem with most of these protocols is that there is no effective sanction for those in breach.

In Africa we have a mixed bag of leaders.

Those who stand up to corruption and are not implicated; those who say they are opposed to it, but are reported to be implicated.

Some of our leaders focus on the bigger picture of developing their countries and others focus on themselves, families, relatives and friends.

When our leaders do not lead by example – and do not mean what they say, corruption is likely to go on unimpeded.

The way forward is for the African Civil Society and its intelligentsia to rise and commit to promoting the establishment of independent and well-resourced institutions that can effectively tackle corruption.

We must build institutions with teeth to bite, and capacity to withstand being captured by the Executive and being used as tools to aid and abet corruption.

As a continent, we must do away with big man syndrome and build institutions that are trusted by the people because they are independent, fair and operate in terms of the laws of our respective countries.

We must remain alive to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, which aims to reduce bribery and corruption, develop accountable institutions that should not only prosecute those found to have a case to answer, but recover that which has been stolen from the people.

The time has now arisen to commence the debate whether it would be prudent for a restructured and democratic Security Council, the African Union, and other regional bodies to consider some form of punishment, where a country, on the basis of credible evidence, is adjudged to be corrupt.

I conclude where I began – by emphasising that corruption is a violation of human rights – that a rights based approach to corruption is good for Africa.

Just as enforcement of human rights in domestic settings are backed by law enforcement structures and courts with teeth, so should corruption at the regional and international level.

I thank you for your attention.

* A speech by Justice Professor Key Dingake on the occasion of the African Union Day, in PNG, on May 27, 2018 at Gateway Hotel, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

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