Ecowas, UNDP set to fight corruption

Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Corruption is defined by many as an abuse of public office for private gains.

It hampers public interest as it entails confusion of the private with the public sphere or an illicit exchange between the two spheres. This include bribery, fraud, diversion, and related offenses.

In an effort to combat this menace, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), yesterday began a two-day workshop on the implementation of Article 38 of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance in the fight against corruption. The workshop is currently underway at the Jerma Beach Hotel in Kololi.

In her welcome remarks, Chinwe Dike, UNDP representative in The Gambia, commended ECOWAS for bringing together practitioners, academics and activists working in various anti-corruption institutions in the  sub-region, to critically discuss the fight against corruption in West Africa and to establish a network of national anti-corruption institutions in the sub-region.

According to her, the primary objective of this workshop is to share experiences and lessons learned in the opportunities and challenges encountered by anti-corruption institutions in the ECOWAS member states. She however observed that the principle of good governance may mean different things to different institutions and practitioners. Commenting on the effects of corruption in the ECOWAS member states, the UNDP representative highlighted that corruption has adverse effects on the economy, limiting economic growth, and that it also impedes economic growth by discouraging foreign and domestic investment, and exacerbating income inequality. She finally appealed to the member states that have not yet adhered to the ECOWAS protocol of January 2009 to take positive steps to implement it.

In his keynote address on behalf of The Gambia government, Dr Henry Carrol, solicitor general and legal secretary at the Department of State for Justice, described the workshop as a historic event in the fight against corruption on the African continent, most especially in the ECOWAS sub-region. According to Dr Carrol, the concepts of good governance, democracy consolidation, respect for rule of law, protection of human rights and economic growth, cannot be sustained without reliable anti-corruption institutions.  "Although member states of the ECOWAS have their criminal and penal codes including other legislations dealing with crimes of fraud and embezzlement, the ECOWAS sub-region still thought it wise and proper to come up with the protocol on Democracy and Good Governance in 2001, before the African Union Convention on Combating and Preventing Corruption in 2003, and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, also in 2003," Dr Carrol noted.

He revealed that the ECOWAS protocol on Democracy and Good Governance is certainly the most ambitious of texts adopted by the sub-regional body, aimed at strengthening peace, democracy and stability in the region. "In compliance with the intentions of the sub-region and in the spirit of the ECOWAS protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, His Excellency Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh, president of the Republic of The Gambia, established a Corruption Commission in 2004, as part of his "Operation No Compromise." It was the first time a sitting African government would be probing itself," Dr Carrol further revealed.

Speaking on behalf of Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, president of the ECOWAS Commission, Professor Ade Adefuye, Democracy and Good Governance adviser to the ECOWAS Commission president, described the workshop as an integral part of their efforts to create and strengthen institutions that contribute towards the sustenance of the principles of democracy and good governance. He expressed optimism that they will soon obtain a corruption-free society if the protocol on Democracy and Good Governance is implemented by all.
Author: By Assan Sallah