First published on the UN Office on Drugs and Crime
“Corruption threatens our security. It drives organised crime. It corrodes our economy. It crushes opportunities for development. And it traps people in cycles of inequality and poverty,” said UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) executive director Ghada Waly in her message on International Anti-Corruption Day last year.
Corruption touches every region of the globe, including countries belonging to the Southern African Development Community (SADC). By hindering sustainable development and diverting resources meant for the most vulnerable, corruption poses a significant threat to the stability and security of the SADC region.
The UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) can be a powerful tool in fighting back against corruption. As the only legally binding, universal anti-corruption instrument, UNCAC bolsters international co-operation in tracking, investigating, and prosecuting corruption.
Against this backdrop, around 100 high-level officials, experts, and civil society representatives from members of SADC gathered at the beginning of June in Luanda, Angola, to develop and agree on a regional roadmap for tangible anti-corruption action in two priority areas.
Priority one: Cross-regional co-operation
Corruption often transcends national boundaries, and coordinated efforts are needed to overcome shared challenges in detecting, investigating and prosecuting corruption cases. Resource constraints, lack of skilled personnel, and misalignment between UNCAC and national laws on corruption, for instance, can hinder abilities to address corruption.
Enhancing information sharing and mutual legal assistance, building capacities by training law enforcement agencies, and increasing financial and human resources and strong political will are key to improve national and regional anti-corruption coordination.
Opening the high-level event, Marcy Lopes, Angola’s minister of Justice and Human Rights, called corruption an evil that must be combated by all. He also highlighted that it is an ongoing battle to ensure development and efficient public services.
Priority two: Public procurement
Public procurement, or the purchase of goods, services, and works by governments or state-owned enterprises, is a process particularly vulnerable to corruption. Through public procurement corruption, public authorities can siphon away funds meant for public services, harming especially the vulnerable. Every dollar lost to corruption in public procurement is a dollar that could have been invested in schools, hospitals, or infrastructure.
Strong oversight bodies, stringent anti-corruption laws, accountability and enhanced private sector compliance can ensure resources reach qualified beneficiaries.
Zahira Virani, UN resident co-ordinator in Angola, emphasised that fighting corruption is essential to ensure investment into services and infrastructure for the benefit of the whole of society. The goal must be equal and sustainable development efforts without leaving anyone behind.
Strengthening the implementation of UNCAC at regional levels
The conference is following the regional approach to fast-track the implementation of UNCAC. This approach has been successfully implemented by UNODC across the world since 2017 and was recognised by states parties to the convention through the adoption of the resolution 9/4 in December 2021.
The conference on combating corruption in Southern Africa concluded with the agreement on a common roadmap of anti-corruption activities to guide collective anti-corruption activities of SADC countries in the years to come.
* The SADC member states are Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.