Oyetunji Abioye, Washington DC, United States
The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde; a former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and key global experts have advised Nigeria, Argentina and other top countries battling corruption to use tools that can help reduce procurement costs by about 60 per cent.
They urged the countries to strengthen institutions, provide incentives against corruption and deploy more technology in order to overcome the hydra-headed problem of corruption.
They spoke during a panel discussion tagged, “Fighting corruption’’ at the World Bank/IMF headquarters in Washington DC, United States on Sunday.
Lagarde said, “We can ask finance ministers to use certain tools that will help them to save 60 per cent of the cost of projects.”
The IMF MD also said, “Nobody should give up on the people, no matter how corrupt a place is. They must take stand against it. At the IMF, we have had to take steps when we identified corruption. Unfortunately, we had to suspend programmes because documents indicated that we were not receiving the truth on the accounts and statistics.”
Okonjo-Iweala, in her remarks, said corruption was not peculiar to any culture, adding that institutions and incentives could help shape the behaviour of people.
She said, “In terms of the fight against corruption, incentives and institutions matter. My experience has been that people in one place are no more corrupt than the other; but if the institutions are not there or they are very weak, then the incentive to be corrupt is stronger. So, if you have a financial management system that is still cash-based, you open the door for people to manipulate or be able to intrude into the system.
“If you can introduce more technology, if you can have systems and processes that guide government, if you can make e-procurement, the more of that you can build institutionally, and strengthen the institutions and then have the institutions of the rule of law alongside that, I think the more you will be able to fight corruption. We really need a systematic plan about fighting corruption.
She added, “The bid stories about scandals about corruption are really what people want to read. But actually, fighting corruption and putting those systems in place are very ‘unsexy’; it takes time. It took us 10 years to try and build the Government Integrated Financial Management System in Nigeria, to get way from cash-based transactions. When you say the Government Integrated Financial Management System, it is so boring; nobody wants to hear. But that is what needs to be done. So, that is my one mantra. I think it is all about strengthening institutions.
“Now, coming to the private sector; yes, the private sector is part of the problem; there is no doubt about it. The World Economic Forum estimated that bribery adds about 10 per cent to the cost of doing business. So, they are undoubtedly part of it. But I also want to say that the private sector is beginning to see that they are part of the solution, and that the world has changed. There are responsible private sector people and organisations that want to be part of the solution and part of that change.”
A professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University in the US, Susan Rose-Ackerman, in her remarks at the panel, said, “People have to decide to make a difference in every society regardless of how corrupt they are. We have had historical situations of highly corrupt countries that people made a difference. It has to do with how values are placed.”
The Secretary of Public Ethics, Transparency, and Fight Against Corruption, Argentina, Laura Alonso, said, “It took us 10 years to build a new society of people who are ready to fight corruption in Argentina.”
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