African states need strong audit institutions to stem fraud, money laundering
CHRISSY DUBE/STEPHEN BUCHANAN-CLARKE
CORRUPTION is a major problem for Africa, with the continent losing billions of dollars every year to illicit financial flows (IFFs) caused by corrupt practices.
An anti-corruption seminar held in mid-April in Johannesburg aimed to create awareness and action on how supreme audit institutions can contribute to state anti-corruption efforts and address the increasing audit expectation gap. Participants were from 14 African countries and included auditors general and anti-corruption agencies.
The continent lost about $50 billion to IFFs in 2015, according to the report of the high-level panel on illicit financial flows from Africa. This staggering amount of money could have been used to address poverty, improve infrastructure and provide better healthcare and education for citizens.
The seminar focused on institutionalised good governance, fraud and corruption concepts for supreme audit institutions and stakeholders. The opening and keynote addresses emphasised the importance of institutionalised good governance.
Sessions that followed focused on fraud and corruption with presentations by, among others, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and The Global Fund. The role of supreme audit institutions in preventing and detecting fraud and corruption was also examined.
Participants took part in a poll exercise to assess their practical experiences in their respective supreme audit institutions and found these audits are significantly contributing to their respective countries’ anti-fraud and anti-corruption efforts.
Supreme audit institutions have a critical role to play in the fight against corruption. They are responsible for auditing public accounts and holding public officials accountable for their actions. Many people expect supreme audit institutions to do more to prevent corruption, but they don’t have adequate resources and support to do so.
Seminar participants discussed the audit expectation gap on supreme audit institutions’ contributions to anti-corruption efforts and possible actions were established to enhance their efforts.
The seminar also helped to raise awareness about the issues concerning state anti-corruption efforts post-Covid, which is crucial for the development of effective anti-corruption strategies in relation to the online/digital aspect of fraud and corruption.
Institutionalised good governance is essential for the effective functioning of supreme audit institutions. It involves establishing strong institutions, transparency, accountability, and the rule of law. When institutions are strong, they can provide a check and balance against corruption, ensuring that public officials are held accountable for their actions.
Seminar participants explored how supreme audit institutions can work with other state organs to create an anti-corruption ecosystem that promotes transparency, accountability, and the rule of law. The seminar also emphasised the importance of citizen participation in the fight against corruption.
The value of collaboration and partnership in the fight against corruption was highlighted.
Several key recommendations emerged from the seminar for African states to address fraud, illicit financial flows and corruption. First, African states need to strengthen their legal and regulatory frameworks for addressing these issues. They must enact and enforce anti-corruption laws and regulations, as well as effectively implementing measures to prevent money laundering and illicit financial flows.
Second, African states need to improve the capacity and effectiveness of their anti-corruption agencies and institutions by providing adequate resources and training to these institutions, as well as enhancing coordination and information-sharing between agencies.
Third, African states should enhance transparency and accountability in public procurement processes by, for example, strengthening procurement regulations, introducing electronic procurement systems, and improving the monitoring and evaluation of procurement activities (real-time audits).
Fourth, African states must strengthen their oversight and accountability mechanisms by improving the capacity of audit institutions and parliaments to hold government officials and institutions accountable for their actions, as well as promoting citizen participation in the oversight processes.
Last, African states need to enhance international cooperation and coordination in addressing fraud, illicit financial flows and corruption. This includes working with international organisations such as the African Union and United Nations, as well as enhancing cooperation with other countries.
The seminar was hosted by the African Organisation of English-speaking Supreme Audit Institutions and Good Governance Africa in partnership with the Financial Services Volunteer Corps, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit and The Global Fund.