The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has urged African leaders to step up implementation mechanisms to address the lack of transparency in the management of the coronavirus (COVID-19) funds.
The centre made the call in a statement to commemorate the 2022 African Union Anti-corruption Day and on Monday, July 11, 2022, in Lagos.
The occasion is marked annually, every July 11.
The theme for this year’s African Union Anti-corruption Day is: “Strategies and Mechanisms for the Transparent Management of COVID-19 Funds.”
According to the centre, there is also the need to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of public funds generally.
It commended African countries that had signed and ratified the African Union Convention, on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), which was adopted in Maputo, Mozambique, on July 11, 2003 and came into force in 2006.
According to the centre, corruption is still an unnerving problem in Africa and indeed the major cause of underdevelopment.
It urged all states to work toward complying with the provisions of the AUCPCC.
“The theme for this year’s African Union Anti-corruption Day is not only apt, but very important at this time, as it seeks to draw global and continental attention to the need to address a disturbing corruption problem, associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has severely tasked many economies and brought social and even political dislocations in Africa.
“There is also an urgent need for member states to collectively take steps to implement the recommendations of the Mbeki report on illicit financial flows, which discovered that the African continent suffers an annual loss of over $50 billion, as of 2015, through illicit financial flows (IFFs).
“The figure has since risen to over $80 billion. Therefore, it is pertinent to note that through corruption and mismanagement, some of the COVID-19 funds in Africa may have become a source of illicit financial flows to countries in the North,” it said.
The CDD added that the national and continental transparency initiative and efforts to stem the unbridled illicit financial flows from Africa to the Northern hemisphere had been embroiled in complex international politics.
It noted that the problem of illicit financial flows could not be solved post-haste.
According to the CDD, Africa must continue to stand together and push for a world order that discourages resource and trade price manipulation, structured to fritter resources from the continent and keep it perpetually undeveloped.
“Corruption and illicit financial flows are twin evils which continue to constrain Africa’s progress and development.
“Regrettably, the utilisation of the COVID-19 funds has also become a major source of Africa’s corruption conundrum,” it said.
It added that the COVID-19 pandemic threw up enormous socio-economic challenges globally and particularly impacted the fragile economies in Africa.
The centre said that the pandemic exacerbated the prevailing challenges of the health sector, raised inflation, caused acute food shortages and elevated conflicts and insecurity.
“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 funds and resources in many countries are dodged by opacity and misuse, complicating the already bad corruption situation in Africa.
“Contracting, procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and distribution of items including food were all associated with corrupt practices.
“In Nigeria for example, life-sustaining resources and materials provided as COVID-19 palliatives for vulnerable citizens were hoarded and misappropriated by PEPs and their collaborators,” it said.
“Hence, the incorporation of technology to improve transparency and facilitate measures to counter corruption, track the utilisation of the COVID-19 funds and trace stolen funds from Africa, has become urgent and critical.
“This will include the incorporation of e-procurement systems and digitised budgets that will have the knock-on effect of improving citizens’ trust,” the CDC said.
By Lilian Okoro