NIGERIAN economist and the first female Minister of Finance Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has lamented the increasing levels of abuse of public funds in Africa, saying “talking about financial misuse isn’t sexy at all”.
And Dr Ngozi says African countries need strong systems to fight corruption, which she says is corroding the values of society. Dr Ngozi, who is also chairperson of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, said at the recently held International Anti-Corruption Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, that fighting abuse of funds also requires a strong civil society.
“We need a strong civil society. Civil society is part of an institutional base. But civil society also seems to be lost. It’s not sexy at all when you talk about financial misuse…Some of these institutions take long to build,” Dr Ngozi said during a panel discussion.
She said the absence of strong institutions of governance was behind increasing levels of corruption in Africa.
“The worst thing about corruption is about the way it corrodes the values of society. We cannot allow a small minority to undermine the good values of the majority in society. Even when someone is looking for a job, they have to find someone who is connected to help. Behind all this is something very important – absence of strong institutions; that matters, we must have strong systems. If you don’t have strong systems, you’ll just get a new set of corrupt people. Institutions matter in the fight against corruption,” Dr Ngozi said.
Talking about her country, Nigeria, Dr Ngozi said the west African natio seemed to have a kleptocratic elite that gave it a bad name.
“The majority of Nigerians are honest, hard-working people who just want the government to provide services they need. Then we have a kleptocratic elite that gives the country a bad name. No one will come into Nigeria to fight corruption; it’s us Nigerians to fight corruption; the government must also come in to fight it,” Dr Ngozi said. “…Talking about protecting whistleblowers isn’t an academic exercise for me.
Try to study on the ground who is doing what and support those truly fighting corruption. There are those sitting here who have no funding to fight corruption and have nowhere to run to when things get bad.”