To mark African Anti-Corruption Day, held every year on 11 July, Transparency International’s (TI) 28 chapters across the African continent have written an open letter to the African Union (AU), reminding it of its anti-corruption commitments and urging it to accelerate action against the effects and perpetrators of corruption.

The theme of this year’s event is Strategies and Mechanisms for the Transparent Management of Covid-19 Funds.

The TI chapters said: “The pandemic has greatly disrupted the livelihoods of African citizens, impeded the movement of people, and exposed inequalities in access to essential goods and services including healthcare and food.”

Even during the pandemic, said TI vice-chairperson, Zambia’s Rueben Lifuka, unscrupulous people found ways of self-enrichment at the expense of the suffering public.

Urgent action is required

The organisations expressed their concerns regarding the urgent need to address corruption in the delivery of basic services such as housing, water, sanitation, and judicial systems, among others. Corruption in these areas affects all who rely on these public services, but especially the most vulnerable citizens such as women, children, and people living with disabilities.

“Similarly, corruption in land management systems exacerbates inequalities by violating the fundamental rights of local communities, particularly vulnerable groups.”

The organisations called on the AU to promote transparency and accountability in the provision of basic services, land administration systems and justice systems. They also demanded an end to impunity for those convicted of corrupt practices.

Furthermore, citizens’ voices need to be heard, said the TI chapters, and governments must create mechanisms to collect their complaints and strengthen whistle-blower protection.

The organisations also addressed the problem of illicit financial flows, saying that Africa is the region most affected by the illegal activity and calling for action against it. Putting measures such as strengthened ‘know your customer’ processes and beneficial ownership transparency would substantially increase resources for the continent to meet its development needs.

Lifuka commented: “This is a critical moment for the African region and its people. If corruption is not addressed urgently, it will block efforts to rebuild after the devastating pandemic and the region’s hopes of charting a path to a stronger future.”

The erosion of a consequence culture in many societies, he said, has led to crass impunity. “Now we’ve corrupt persons claiming to be victimised whenever they are called to account. These corrupt persons want their rights to be respected and not the rights of the real victims.”

By failing to enforce existing laws and policies, he added, and allowing law enforcement institutions to deteriorate under weak leadership, governments have allowed corruption to flourish and created societies that are complicit in or indifferent to corruption.

In short, Lifuka said, “We’ve normalised corruption.”

Download the letter from African TI chapters to the AU.