Corruption has been a global problem since time immemorial. In Africa, it continues to break already fragile and depressed economies making countries dive deeper into poverty. It was reported in 2018 that Africa was losing $148 billion through corruption every year. Although anti-corruption strategies and regulatory frameworks have been set in the continent, most have not been successful. Despite failed attempts to combat corruption, several African countries are making good progress. The least corrupt countries in Africa include Botswana, Cape Verde, Seychelles, Mauritius, Lesotho, Namibia, Rwanda, Ghana, South Africa, and Senegal.
Several countries have managed to fight corruption, and there are lessons that Africa can learn from these countries.
Punishing Government Officials and Ordinary Citizens Equally in Matters of Corruption
Corruption impedes a country’s development. Therefore, anyone caught practicing corruption should be dealt with accordingly regardless of their status in society. Singapore does not distinguish between crimes by government officials or ordinary citizens. All cases are tried equally, according to Singapore’s strict criminal code. Anyone found guilty faces a long jail-term and a large fine of up to 100 000 Singapore dollars. The law also applies to those caught cases of corruption outside of Singapore, provided they are Singapore citizens. Rwanda has also created a transparency and accountability culture and set high penalties for people involved in corruption. Like ordinary citizens, corrupt Rwandan public servants face dire consequences.
However, the case is different in most African countries. There have been cases where government officials have misused public funds, and nothing has been done about it. If African governments can follow Singapore’s example, the continent will make significant steps in the fight against corruption.
Establishing an Honest Police Service
Having an honest police service discourages corruption in any country. We have seen the police use their power to oppress innocent citizens as they demand unnecessary bribes. In most countries, citizens have lost confidence in their local police, and they don’t feel safe around them. Countries like Rwanda, Singapore, Finland, Norway, and Iceland have established an honest police force, which has helped fight against corruption. African countries with a corrupt police service need to learn this lesson from countries succeeding in the fight against corruption.
Disclosure of Budget Information and Allowing Citizens to Participate in the Budget Process
Mismanagement of public funds is one of the major problems in the continent. Allowing citizens to participate in the budgeting process and making government expenditure transparent will eliminate all possibilities of theft and embezzlement. Sweden has the Open Budget Index, which allows its citizens to assess how the government uses public funds.
Creating Whistleblowing Policies
Whistleblowing is when a person, usually an employee reveals or reports corruption or any illegal act within a private, public, or government institution. The use of whistleblowing in terms of encouraging it and protecting whistleblowers is one of the most effective tools to detect and fight corruption. If whistleblowers are protected from discrimination, retaliation, or any disadvantage, people will be encouraged to report wrongdoing in society.
The United States has some of the most advanced whistleblower laws in the world. These laws have greatly helped to expose corruption in different levels of governance. European countries have also adopted the same. The Republic of Botswana< encourages whistleblowing, and it enacted its Whistle Blowing Act, No. 9 of 2016, to engage citizens to pass on information without fear. Additionally, Botswana has established hotlines through which citizens can report corruption. Other African countries need to take this as a challenge and learn from these countries.
Promoting Freedom of the Press/Media
Freedom of the press promotes democracy and is another excellent way to control corruption. It allows people to express their views without censorship from the government. The media is a public watchdog on the abuse of power and bribery as journalists uncover corrupt acts and make them known to the public. The public will then demand that action is taken to bring corrupt individuals to account.
Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, and Portugal rank high in press freedom index, and it has dramatically helped to fight corruption. On the other hand, thousands of journalists have been killed in African countries for reporting on issues of corruption and social justice. If African governments can promote and embrace the freedom of the press, then corruption will be drastically reduced on the continent.
Establishing Mandatory Codes of Conduct for Public Servants
Governments can establish codes of conduct for public servants that will help to increase accountability and decrease corruption. In countries where this is practiced, codes of conduct are combined with sets of penalties and other punishments for officials who violate them. In Denmark, ministers are expected to put in writing information concerning their spending, travel, and gifts. Public officials that are convicted of corruption in Rwanda face hefty fines and auctioning of their property. The government of Singapore nullifies all contracts granted by any public servant convicted of corruption.
The situation is different in many African countries. Public servants lead luxurious and extravagant lifestyle using public funds. Seeing that these codes of conduct have worked in other countries, they can work for Africa if they are established and taken seriously.
Promoting an Independent and Efficient Judiciary
The judiciary’s major causes of corruption are low judicial and court staff salaries, influence by the executive and legislative bodies, inadequate training, and fear of retribution. Promoting an independent and efficient judiciary is one excellent way to fight corruption in any country. Judges ought to decide cases before them in strict adherence to the law. A fair and independent judiciary will sustain people’s trust and confidence, and they will not hesitate to take corruption cases to court.
Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands have the best judicial systems globally. Their court systems are transparent and independent, passing judgment without intervention from external influences. This has greatly helped fight corruption in these countries. On the other hand, Egypt and Cameroon are examples of countries with the worst judicial systems in the world. African governments need to ensure that their judicial systems are independent, as it is a sure way to fight and prevent corruption.
Corruption remains a major global problem, and Africa has a lot to learn from countries that have successfully fought against corruption. Corruption is a drain on government resources in the continent. If African governments can learn from these examples, the fight against corruption in the continent may start to see some light.