Parliaments in West and Central Africa, invest in anti-corruption!

09 December 2015 - Statement by the UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa, Mr. Pierre Lapaque, in the occasion of the Anti-Corruption Day

Every year, West and Central Africa lose billions of US dollars in State revenue due to rampant corruption. Instead of funding schools, health clinics, infrastructure and youth employment, natural resources are too often siphoned off to companies with undisclosed beneficiaries and bank accounts in faraway destinations.

In recent years, most countries in West and Central Africa have established anti-corruption authorities to prevent and combat corruption. Unfortunately, many of these institutions have never functioned properly. Many have never obtained a single conviction in the courts for corruption. Hence, public disappointment has often followed the initial high expectations.

As we celebrate the 12 th anniversary of the United Nations Convention against corruption (the Convention), ratified by all countries in West Africa and most countries in Central Africa, I would like to urge parliaments in the region to reinvest fully in their anti-corruption infrastructure. Stronger anti-corruption laws, in line with the Convention, need to be adopted and anti-corruption authorities need more funding and stronger investigative powers.

 

Today, West African parliaments invest in average 150 FCFA or 25 cents $US per citizen on their principal anti-corruption authorities, while they lose in average more than 30,000 FCFA or 50 $US per citizen due to illicit financial flows annually. The current trend of poor anti-corruption funding and high leakage of resources needs to be reversed. If parliaments across the region could quadruple their investment in anti-corruption authorities, the return on investment could be tremendous. In Burkina Faso, parliament has written a minimum budget for the anti-corruption authority into its law (0,01% of the national budget). Other countries in the region could follow suit.

At the same time, investigative and prosecutorial powers in anti-corruption authorities are mostly absent. Most anti-corruption authorities in West and Central Africa have a mandate to investigate corruption, but they don't have the investigative powers to exercise this mandate (powers to arrest, to freeze bank accounts, to seize assets, to conduct house searches, etc.). If parliaments across the region could provide their anti-corruption authorities with judicial police powers (where they still lack those), then these authorities would be more likely to succeed in their investigations.

Fighting corruption is often a thorn in the foot for political leaders, but this fight is a necessary one, for the future of young people in West and Central Africa. The region is plagued by poverty, violent extremism, terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime. Unless parliaments step up their efforts to fight corruption, a vicious cycle of corruption, violence and poverty will continue to unwind. To reverse this trend, I urge you to bring national legislation in line with the Convention and to invest more in your anti-corruption infrastructure. Only then is a virtuous circle and a brighter future of peace, development and prosperity for all people in the region possible.

For more information:

Website of the United Nations Anti-Corruption campaign

Statement of the UNODC Executive Director for the International Anti-Corruption Day

Statement of the United Nations Secretary-General for the International Anti-Corruption Day

Find out more about Anti-Corruption activities in West and Central Africa