By Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
To effectively rid Africa of endemic corruption, which has been the bane of development in the continent, President Muhammadu Buhari has advised that anti-corruption agencies in African countries should come up with robust methods to prevent corruption.
President Buhari, who gave the advice Monday when he addressed delegates to the Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA) training for heads and senior officials of anti-corruption agencies in the African Union (AU), held at the behest of the Nigerian government at the banquet hall of the presidential villa, Abuja, said: “Our continent has suffered from the severe consequences of corruption and it is imperative that we take steps to reverse the trend.”
Noting that the training, facilitated by the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN), the research and training arm of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), was part of his government’s support for the war against corruption in Africa, President Buhari told participants to be conscious of the fact that corruption is hard to combat and that it fights back.
Drawing inference from his experience in combating corruption in Nigeria and insisting that the fight against corruption is a battle for the souls of different countries that must be won, he said: “When we assumed office in May 2015, the pervasive nature and devastating impact of corruption on the Nigerian nation had become dysfunctional. The momentum for our electoral victory could not be separated from the revolt of the people against glaring endemic corruption.
“During the past several months, we have been taking steps to institute integrity and transparency in the processes of government and holding those who have plundered our commonwealth to account for their actions.
“However, the costs of recovery and sanctions are also enormous. While commendable successes have been recorded, it has become manifest that corruption fights back. With enormous stolen resources, elements have attempted to compromise law enforcing institutions and pervert the course of justice.
“This realisation highlights the necessity of building a system that focuses on preventing corruption. We continue to implement policies aimed at building resilient systems that can withstand assault by corrupt officials.
“Our steps in this direction include the full implementation of both the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Bank Verification Number (BVN) the Open Government Partnership, various Executive Orders, strengthening the Anti-Corruption Agencies and permitting their full autonomy.
“It is in this context of building robust preventive systems that we must understand this initiative which aims to train leaders of anti-corruption agencies in the African Union by deploying Corruption Risk Assessment Methodology for corruption prevention in our countries.”
The president said CRA seeks to identify corruption-prone processes and procedures in organisations and recommend appropriate remedial steps, noting that it places a premium on prevention as an effective complement to enforcement in the war against corruption.
Acknowledging that through support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2016, the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria acquired the capacity to conduct training on CRA, he said since then, the academy has conducted a number of training it is giving the anti-corruption bodies of other African countries.
He said the training is an opportunity to extend the benefits of this methodology to other African countries, adding that: “By which it is clear that we have not taken our appointment as Anti-Corruption Champion for the continent for the year 2018 lightly.”
Buhari added that the CRA methodology has been deployed to a number of sectors.
“The most recent one being the risk assessment of the country’s e-government system whose report is now available,” imploring benefitting countries to work assiduously to implement the recommendations of the report.
The acting Chairman, ICPC, Dr. Musa Usman, described CRA as one of the preventive tools employed by ICPC to plug systemic loopholes which provide opportunity for corruption in the public sector.
He said it was first deployed in Nigeria in 2011 with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme Virtual School in Bogota.
“When loopholes and leakages in the systems are plugged, people will be denied access to public funds and as such will not have the opportunity to misappropriate it. This is against pursuing individuals after the deed is done, an action that drains a lot of resources amidst challenges that create uncertainty of outcomes. To this end, ICPC stands on the principle that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a tonne of remedy,” Usman said.
The Provost, Anti-Carruption Academy of Nigeria, Prof. Sola Akinrinade, said: “The principal strategy of the academy in its engagements with the public sector is to build capacity of individual agencies and sectors to tackle corruption within their respective systems.”