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Threat of corruption doesn’t stand still, says Penrose

BRITISH anti-corruption champion John Penrose has noted an urgent need to quicken the fight against corruption in both actions and legislation. Penrose, who was speaking on a panel discussion at the 18th International Anti Corruption Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, said the United Kingdom had not gone to sleep after the last Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016.

He said “the world does not stand still; the threat of corruption does not stand still”, advising that the best way to track the commitments made by a country was to “reduce them into action points”.

“…the UK government has made 133 anti-corruption action points, which will be implemented in a five-year period,” said Penrose at the panel discussion titled “Gone but not forgotten: Beyond the legacy of Anti-Corruption Summit”.

Joe Powell, the deputy chief executive officer of Open Government Partnership Support Unit, who was the panel moderator, started the session with a question for the audience: “How many people have attended an anti-corruption conference and felt there were no concrete actions to address the commitments made?”

Only a handful of delegates put up their hands.

Afghanistan’s Minister of Works Yama Yari, gave examples of steps his country had put into action following the commitments made in London two years ago.

He explained that one of the commitments was to create the Justice and Anti-Corruption Commission, which he says has yielded a lot of results, stating that “the establishment of the commission has led to a renewed fight against graft in our country”.

Yari announced that within two years, about 350 cases had been reported to the commission out of which 92 had been dealt with.

He said the prosecution resulted in the jailing of over 100 ministers, deputy ministers, heads of boards and state corporations and other high public office holders.

Afghanistan has also taken steps to retrieve about $65 million from corrupt persons involved, Yari added.

“It is unheard of in the region to have ministers or deputy ministers going to jail for corruption,” he noted.

Yari added that Afghanistan had passed a number of legislations to aid the fight against corruption as part of the nation’s commitments at the London Summit in 2016.

Some of them, he said, were the Anti-Money Laundering Law, Access to Information Law, Assets Registration Law and an electronic system for the recruitment of civil servants, among other steps.

Yari said the various steps aimed at ensuring transparency had led to the removal of “thousands of ghost soldiers from the payroll of the governments”.

Jameela Raymonds of Transparency International UK, for her part, said anti-corruption conferences would not yield the needed results unless monitoring and tracking of the commitments made by participating states were strengthened.

“If we are not watching, the work won’t get done,” said Raymonds.

Participants in the interactive session called for stronger collaboration between organisers of the anti-corruption forums to partner with civil society to put pressure on governments to implement commitments and accountability in their countries.

South Africa’s Corruption Watch representative Kavisha Pillay said the post-Jacob Zuma era had witnessed what appears to be “actions against corruption” but feared sustainability might be hampered due to “the mentality of some people that, with the now-former president out, corruption will disappear”.

Nazar Ahmad Shah of the Danish Foreign Affairs Ministry, who oversees Denmark’s development programmes in Afghanistan, said the current government in Afghanistan was more committed to fighting corruption than the previous one.

Shah said one way of compelling countries to act was to put pressure on and sanction governments that show no commitment to fighting corruption.

The session stressed the need for politicians to be made accountable to deliver on their promises and commitments; strengthened networks among agencies of government and civil societies; as well as the need for systematic approach to achieve the objectives set by countries from anti-corruption summits.

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