THERE is good news and bad news for Africa in this year’s Corruption Perceptions Index, an annual assessment of global perceptions of corruptionby Transparency International.
The good news is that some African countries have posted a significant improvement on the Index.
Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe are the most improved African countries in the just-released 2016 index; both countries held democratic elections last year.
Independent electoral observer teams lauded the Cape Verdean poll as “exemplary”; Jorge Carlos Fonseca was re-elected on the back of improving governance indicators as observed by various African governance reviews, including the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
In Sao Tome and Principe, elections were held in July 2016 in which the incumbent president Manuel Pinto da Costa was defeated by his challenger Evaristo Carvalho.
But that election had an “unAfrican” twist. Initial results showed that Carvalho had defeated Pinto da Costa in the first round, but then those results were subsequently annulled, necessitating a second round between Carvalho and Pinto da Costa, which was held on 7 August.
However – and very unlike an incumbent African president – it was Pinto da Costa that refused to participate in the second round, alleging fraud and calling for a boycott. It meant that his challenger Carvalho was elected unopposed.
But there’s bad news too. Ghana, despite being a model of democratic stability in the region, has significantly declined on the index, dropping from a score of 48 out of 100 in 2014, to 43 in the latestedition.
Public sector corruption in Ghana has been at the top of the public agenda in the country. In September 2015, the work of celebrated investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas revealed extortion and bribery among 180 judicial officials; including 34 judges and several state attorneys and prosecutors.
A five-member committee, headed by a Supreme Court, was set up to investigate the allegations; more than 100 members of staff of the Judicial Service were then investigated. By the end of 2015, 22 judges had been suspended, and 12 High Court judges were being investigated.
Meanwhile, President John Dramani Mahama was also at the centre of a bribery scandal. Mahama allegedly received a car from a construction firm from Burkina Faso bidding on a lucrative government contract in Ghana. The firm later secured the road-building contract.
The president denied the corruption allegations claiming that the vehicle was a gift and that it was added to the government car pool. Despite being cleared of the bribery charges, an official investigation found him guilty of breaching government rules.
A PRESIDENT GOES HOME
The rampant corruption (and related, poor economic management) in Ghana led citizens to voice their frustrations through the election, resulting in an incumbent president losing for the first time in Ghana’s history.
Several other large African countries have failed to improve their scores on the index. These include South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya.
South African President Jacob Zuma has been in court and in the media at the centre of a series of corruption scandals. This included his own appeal against findings in a report by the Public Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela, regarding undue public spending in his private homestead in Nkandla.
In Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta has repeatedly expressed frustration that his anti-corruption efforts have not been yielding much, and has blamed shadowy “cartels” for blocking all his good intentions.
And right at the bottom of the list is Somalia, whose parliamentary elections were marred by malpractice and corruption. Presidential elections were postponed three times last year and are yet to be held.
But viewed globally, the majority of countries around the world are doing badly.
Over two-thirds of the 176 countries and territories in this year’s index fall below the midpoint of the scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). The global average score is a paltry 43, indicating endemic corruption in the public sectors of most countries.