The United Nation Resident Coordinator in The Gambia has described as a ‘positive trend’ the country’s ranking in the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Reported by Transparency International, The Gambia is ranked 145 out of 175 countries in the list of least corrupt nations, which she said is a positive trend.
Ms. Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje was speaking on Monday during the opening of a workshop on the Gambian Anti-Corruption Bill held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
The workshop on the Gambian anti–corruption bill is organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice.
She said the Anti-Corruption Bill and the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Commission in The Gambia is long overdue.
“Independent and well financed anti-corruption agencies are known to be effective in preventing and reducing corruption, saving countries resources that are important for development. There is more emerging evidence on correlations between corruption and development and countries scoring low on corruption prevalence or perceptions tend to be countries that enjoy greater prosperity, opportunity, and individual liberty” she said.
Lekoetje reminded that an Anti-Corruption Commission in The Gambia will not succeed if other relevant institutional reforms are not in place. She said research shows that higher-ranked countries in the corruption perception index tend to have higher degrees of press freedom, access to information about public expenditure, stronger standards of integrity for public officials, respect for human rights and independent judicial systems.
“I am glad the new government has committed to undertake various institutional reforms that will ultimately aid the war against corruption, especially the freedom of information bill that is currently in the formulation stage. The United Nations will continue to assist the government to carry out these and other reforms” she assured.
According to Lekoetje, corruption is undoubtedly the biggest challenge to development, stifles economic growth and diverts funds from vital public services and undermines efficiency. This reality of corruption and its devastating effects she said make it important for every government, the United Nations System, development partners and every Gambian to work to end corruption.
“In short, combating corruption is everybody’s business” she noted.
At the national level, she said efforts have been made to combat corruption through legislations. She said the Criminal Code was passed in 1979 to provide a legal platform for fighting corruption. In 1982, the Evaluation of Assets and Prevention of Corrupt Practices Bill was passed by the parliament while in 2012, the Gambia Anti-Corruption Act was established to fight corruption.
“The law provided for the setting up of a permanent six-member Commission mandated to investigate and prosecute all crimes of corruption committed by Gambians within and outside the country” she said.
Lekoetje added: “Substantial reduction of corruption is pertinent in 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. The Sustainable Development Goal 16 calls for reduction of corruption and bribery in all their forms. Additionally, it demands significant reduction of illicit financial and arms flows, strengthening the recovery and return of stolen assets and combating all forms of organized crime. The new National Development Plan (NDP) for The Gambia and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF 2017-2021) have mainstreamed SDG 16 and its targets as a deliberate effort to combat corruption in The Gambia”.
The UN boss in the Gambia further described corruption is an impediment to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that require unprecedented investments. If Africa and Gambia are to succeed in implementing prioritized SDGs by 2030, she said preventing and combating corruption is mandatory.
“This will not only attract financing for development from donors and private sector, but it will save countries resources needed to implement the SDGs and eradicate poverty.
The capacity of the LDC countries to raise the required funds to achieve the SDGs is limited, and given the declining external aid, combating corruption will attract resources that will assist to fill the funding gap” she said.
Lekoetje highlighted the important role of the civil society and media in the fight against corruption. As an awareness creation and advocacy bodies, she said CSOs and the media can play an important role in creating awareness on devastating effects of corruption and also holding leaders accountable.
She said the UN is fully committed to promoting government efforts to eradicate corruption. She encouraged the participants to openly share experiences and critically assess the bill so that Gambians can finally have an effective legal tool and institution to fight corruption and its menace.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopted the ECOWAS Protocol on the Fight against Corruption in 2001. But the protocol has not entered into force due to a lack of ratifications as only 8 countries have so far ratified, making it difficult to collectively fight corruption in the region. The ratings by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) show that West Africa countries have disproportionately higher levels of corruption than countries in other regions. Following the democratic transition in January 2017 that received support from ECOWAS and globally, The Gambia has a unique opportunity to be the champion of anti-corruption and democracy in the region.
In 2003, The African Union adopted the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to address corruption in the public and private sectors. The convention represents a consensus on what African countries should do in the areas of prevention, criminalization, international cooperation and asset recovery. Article 5 of the Convention requires state parties to establish, maintain and strengthen independent national anticorruption authorities or agencies. To date, 37 African countries have ratified the convention, including The Gambia.
In December 2005, the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) came into force and it has been ratified by 155 States, including The Gambia. The Convention obliges States to prevent and criminalize corruption; to promote international cooperation; to recover stolen assets generated by corruption and to improve technical assistance and information exchange in both the private and public sectors. Specifically, Article 6 of the convention requires countries to establish independent anti-corruption bodies.