President Mahama’s advisor chairs AU corruption board

President John Mahama’s advisor on governance and corruption, Daniel Batidam, has been re-elected to chair African Union (AU)’s Advisory Board on corruption.

Dr Batidam’s re-appointment was announced Friday, June 10, in a communiqué issued by the continental body in Arusha, Tanzania.

His re-election is in accordance with provisions of the Union’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and the Rules of Procedure.

The former head of the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) – the local chapter of Transparency International – will be assisted by Florence Ziyambi as Vice-Chairperson and John Kithome Tuta as Rapporteur.

Read the full communique below:

1. The Africa Union Advisory Board on Corruption (“the Board”) held its 19th Ordinary Session at the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC) in Arusha, the United Republic of Tanzania, from 6th to 10th June, 2016.

2. In accordance with the provisions of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and the Rules of Procedure of the Board, on 6th June, 2016, the Board carried out an election of its Bureau, as a result of which the following members were re-elected:-

a)Hon. Daniel BATIDAM -Chairperson Ghana
b) Hon. (Ms) Florence ZIYAMBI – Vice- Chairperson – Zimbabwe
c)Hon. John Kithome TUTA – Rapporteur – Kenya

3. The Board welcomed the newly appointed Executive Secretary of the Board, Ms. Charity Hanene Nchimunya (of Zambia), and expressed optimism in having a cordial working relationship between the Board and the Secretariat.

4. The Board discussed, among other things, the implementation of the African Union Convention against Corruption (“the Convention”) and considered the views of various stakeholders on diverse issues touching on the fight against corruption in Africa, generally, and the mandate of the Advisory Board in particular.

5. The Board deliberated on various issues touching on its work, including but not limited to: the activity report of the Board for the period October 2015 to June, 2016; the revision of the Strategic Plan of the Board for the period 2016-2020; the capacity needs of the Secretariat of the Board; the draft 8th Report of the Board to the Executive Council of the African Union; partnership with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in monitoring the implementation of the Convention; opportunities for partnerships with various stakeholders such as the African Development Bank (AfDB); Deutsche GesellschaftfürInternationaleZusammenarbeit (GIZ); the European Union (EU); and Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), among others; the draft Terms of Reference (TORs) for a review mechanism on the implementation of the Convention; country missions to various countries that have not signed or ratified the Convention; proposed African Anti-Corruption Day and African Year of Anti-Corruption, 2018, and priority activities for the Board for 2016.

6. The Board received the views of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on possible areas of co-operation in the fight against corruption in Africa generally and the review of the implementation of the Convention, in particular, during an open session held for CSOs on 8th June, 2016. During the session, the Board received presentations from representatives of the Pan-African Lawyers Union (PALU), and the Open Society Foundation’s Africa Regional Office (OSF/AfRO).

7. The Board recalled its Communiqué issued at the conclusion of its 18th Session on 9th October, 2015, and reiterated its commitment to the execution of its mandate as per Article 22 of the Convention.

8. The Board took note of recent initiatives in the fight against corruption, such as the 6th Commonwealth Review Meeting of Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies in Africa, held in Swakopmund, Namibia (31 May-4 June, 2016), and the Global Declaration Against Corruption issued on 12th May, 2016, after the International Anti-Corruption Summit held in London, United Kingdom, both of which underscore the importance of zero tolerance for corruption and the need to support victims of corruption, among others.

9. The Board deliberated on a number of issues that require urgent intervention or action lest they undermine the fight against corruption in Africa, compromise the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms provided for under the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and militate against the realization of the AU Agenda 2063 vision. Consequently, the Board states as follows:-

(a) The Board appreciates that the African Union has declared 2016 to be the Year of Human Rights with a special focus on the Rights of Women in Africa. This places an obligation on all of us to reflect on the disproportionately high impact that corruption inflicts on the women and children of Africa, especially in terms of denial of social and economic rights, and the interface of corruption with conflict, terrorism and fundamentalism of various kinds. It further behooves on us to take all possible measures, within the framework of existing laws, policies, institutions and mechanisms, to combat corruption, in order to enhance the protection and promotion of the rights of the women and children of Africa.

(b) The Board welcomes the publication of the ‘Panama Papers’ and the robust public discourse that has ensued, in Africa and elsewhere across the world on the subject of corruption. The Board particularly appreciates the Statement issued by H.E. Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa, and Chairperson of the African Union-United Nations High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa (HLP-IFF).

(c) The Advisory Board, while counseling itself that the presumption of innocence should be afforded to all persons mentioned in the ‘Panama Papers’ and that each individual case must be examined and investigated, however, notes that the said ‘Panama Papers’ have reignited debate on possible abuse of office by high-ranking public officials. This debate must be taken to its logical conclusion. We reiterate that each individual case ought to be thoroughly investigated by the relevant competent national, regional or international agencies, to establish whether it is legitimate or not. In this regard, the Board will be liaising with the national anti-corruption authorities, under the aegis of the African Association of Anti-Corruption Agencies (AAACA), with a view to ensuring that the allegations raised in the ‘Panama Papers’ are investigated and the culprits brought to book.

(d) The Board also notes that discourse on the ‘Panama Papers’ takes us back to the Report and Recommendations of the African Union-United Nations High-level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa (HLP-IFF), led by H.E. Thabo Mbeki. It acknowledges that the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU), the highest decision-making body on the African continent, adopted the said Report and directed that its recommendations be implemented. The Board is conscious that, by virtue of the mandate bestowed upon it under Article 22 of the Convention, the Board is one of the key institutions obligated to implement the recommendations. In this regard, the Board will confer with the African Union, the High-Level Panel, African Governments and African civil society organizations with a view to strengthening partnerships for robust implementation of the said recommendations.

(e) In particular, the Board will consider and consult on whether, and how, it should amend its Questionnaire for State reporting under the Convention to include questions that will distill the issues related to, as well as best practices in preventing and combating illicit financial flows (IFFs) from Africa.

(f) The Board took note of the convening of an International Anti-Corruption Summit by British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in London, on 12th May 2016 and has taken particular note of the Global Declaration against Corruption, emanating from that Summit. The Board congratulates the six countries (Afghanistan, Britain, France, Kenya, the Netherlands, and Nigeria) which agreed to publish registers of beneficial ownership, i.e. registers available to the public regarding who really owns companies in their territories. We reiterate the call of Prime Minister Cameron that this is the ‘gold standard’ which every country should be working towards.
(g) The Advisory Board recalls its statement issued at the conclusion of its 18th Session in October, 2015 and acknowledges the words of H.E. President Buhari of Nigeria in his statement to the United Nations General Assembly in September, 2015 to the effect that, “You encourage corruption by providing safe havens for stolen funds.” In that regard, the Board calls upon countries that harbor stolen assets from Africa to endeavour to repatriate those assets to the victim states and that, countries that receive such assets should manage them in a transparent and accountable manner, for the benefit of their people.

(h) The Board endorses the words of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the UK Summit, that the ‘Panama Papers’ show how corruption is “scared of the spotlight”. The Board echoes his call for new protection for whistleblowers, who are under great danger in many countries and calls for robust prosecution of offenders, which will be the only way African states can show our peoples that they are serious about combating corruption, as opposed to “appearing to be fighting corruption”.

(i) The Board further welcomes the on-going development of a new, continental Multi-Sectoral Working Group against corruption (MSWG) championed by, amongst others, the Pan-African Lawyers Union (PALU) and the Open Society Foundation’ Africa Regional Office (OSF-AfRO). The Board further welcomes the proposal of these organizations to convene an annual Civil Society Forum on the margins of one of the sessions of the Board, and directs its Secretariat to liaise with the organizers of that forum to ensure that they deliver tangible results for the betterment of the African continent and its peoples.

(j) The Board reiterates that it is well aware of the obligations placed on States Parties by Article 12 and the obligations placed on the Board itself by Article 22(5) of the Convention respectively, to build effective partnerships with civil society and the media, in combating corruption.
(k) The Board also appreciates the steady development of the African Governance Architecture (AGA) and the institutionalization of the African Governance Platform (AGP). The Board is conscious of the leadership role that it is required to play in AGA/AGP, and especially in the Governance cluster therein, which seeks to promote the strengthening of institutions of public service delivery, including, but not limited to, decentralization and accountability. The Board is particularly keen on its obligations to animate the sub-clusters on anti-corruption and accountability, and on natural resource management. In this regard, the Board will continue to collaborate and to confer with other AGP Member Institutions and with all other stakeholders, with a view to ensuring that measurable outcomes are achieved in the said Cluster and sub-clusters.

(l) The Board encourages Member States to domesticate and implement the provisions of the AU Convention, especially the requirement on States Parties to establish, maintain and strengthen independent national anti-corruption agencies (Article 5(3)); to adopt legislative and other measures to protect informants and witnesses in corruption and related offences, including protection of their identities (Article 5(5)); to require all or designated public officials to declare their assets at the time of assumption of office, during, and at the end of their term of office in public service (Article 7(1)); to enact Access to Information laws (Article 9); and to regulate political party funding (Article 10).

(m) The Board further seeks the support of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, the Executive Council, the Permanent Representatives’ Committee (PRC), the African Union Commission and other members of the African Governance Platform (AGP) to revise the Convention, and extend the mandate of the Board, from two years to five years, thus aligning it with other sister Organs, and with established African Union policy and culture, so as to give the Board enough time to conceptualize and oversee the implementation of high-impact anti-corruption programmes and activities.

(n) The Advisory Board encourages States Parties to the Convention to ensure that the fight against corruption is undertaken without fear or favour and predicated upon the principles of the rule of law, constitutionalism and human rights.

(o) It further encourages States Parties to make provision for legal aid so as to facilitate access to justice for the marginalized and indigent persons.

(p) The Board acknowledges the success and the best practices learnt from the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) Implementation Review Mechanism and looks forward to benchmarking with the UNCAC review mechanism, and partnering with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), for purposes of improving the review of the implementation of the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.

10. In line with its Strategic Plan, Rules of Procedure and 2016 Work Plan, the Board will be holding three more sessions in August, October, and December, 2016 and will also be holding a number of other activities in collaboration with other stakeholders, in line with the Board’s mandate.
11. The Board urges the AU to demonstrate real political will to the fight against corruption by putting at the disposal of the Board adequate human and financial resources to carry out its mandate effectively.

12. The Board takes note that a number of African states will be holding their general elections in 2016 and calls upon election management bodies, national anti-corruption agencies/authorities, the electorate and other stakeholders in the concerned countries to bar persons who have unresolved integrity issues from assuming leadership positions.

13. The Advisory Board commends H.E. President Ernest BaiKoroma of Sierra Leone for appointing Hon. Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, a Member of the Board and former Commissioner of the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission, as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of Sierra Leone in December, 2015, and calls upon other African Heads of State and Government to emulate the Sierra Leone example by appointing men and women of integrity in various leadership positions.

14. The Board recommends that the 11th of July be declared the African Anti-Corruption Day, being the day the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption was adopted in Maputo, Mozambique, in order to raise awareness and marshall national, regional and continental efforts towards preventing and combating corruption. Further, the Board recommends that the AU General Assembly declares 2018 as the African Anti-Corruption Year.

15. In conclusion, the Board expresses its appreciation and gratitude to the Government and the people of the United Republic of Tanzania for their warm hospitality and for the diplomatic and administrative support usually accorded the Board whenever it holds its Ordinary Sessions at the Board’s Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.

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