By Dipo Olowookere
The fight against corruption is no doubt a global one and efforts are being made to ensure the menace is defeated or at best curbed to the barest minimum.
Since the inception of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, he has devoted much of his time to go after corrupt officials.
However, his government has sought the assistance of international community in giving corruption a hard fight.
According to the World Bank, over $20 billion is stolen annually by corrupt officials from African, Asian, South American and European countries.
As the world marks the International Anti-corruption Day on Saturday, December 9, 2017, the United States said it was glad to co-host the December 4-6 inaugural Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) with the United Kingdom, as a demonstration of its continued commitment to preventing and combatting corruption globally.
The US said the over $20 billion lost to corruption should have been used for sustainable development of these countries for essential services such as schools, hospitals, and roads. Rather than lining the pockets of corrupt officials, these funds should help grow economies and improve the well-being of the people of these countries.
To help prevent and combat kleptocracy, US assistance helps strengthen transparency and accountability within government institutions.
Since fiscal year (FY) 2016, the Department of State and US Agency for International Development (USAID) have dedicated more than $115 million annually to a wide range of foreign assistance efforts to counter corruption, including capacity building of foreign governments to create stronger laws and more effective institutions; investigate, prosecute, and secure convictions for corruption offenses; and put in place measures to prevent corruption, foster oversight, and promote government integrity and transparency.
US support of global efforts to recover stolen assets and ensure corrupt actors cannot benefit from their ill-gotten gains is an important part of this work.
The United States contributed $1 million to the World Bank and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) to organize GFAR and provide technical assistance to support country-level capacity building and coordination on asset recovery cases. GFAR provides a platform to enable the four focus countries: Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Ukraine, to make tangible progress on significant asset recovery cases in connection with financial centers and other jurisdictions.
In addition to co-hosting GFAR, the United States has provided significant technical assistance to the four focus countries to strengthen anticorruption and asset recovery efforts. Several bilateral and regional multi-year programs, including support for the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and UNCAC mentors and for the Global Focal Points Network supported by INTERPOL and StAR, have bolstered anticorruption mechanisms necessary to recover stolen assets, helping to ensure countries continue progress achieved through participation in GFAR.
Since FY 2013, the U.S. government has provided foreign assistance to increase the Nigerian government’s capacity to investigate and prosecute corruption and financial crime cases, including asset forfeiture and anti-money laundering. Programs also seek to bolster Nigerian civil society’s capacity to ensure transparency and accountability in government.
Over the past three years, the United States has funded a project with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to mentor officials investigating and prosecuting money laundering crimes, including on asset forfeiture and counter financing of terrorism, in addition to providing technical assistance to the Nigerian judiciary. We will continue to work with the EFCC to further strengthen EFCC institutional development.
The U.S. government funds the Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) Support Unit through a joint grant between the Department of State and USAID to work with civil society and governments to develop commitments aimed at countering corruption and promoting transparency. The United States also funded a project which led to the drafting of Nigeria’s OGP National Action Plan through collaboration with EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), and several civil society organizations.
U.S. foreign assistance also supported outreach efforts through infographics and social media on corruption-related issues, making public data from Nigerian anti-corruption agencies more accessible, and training Nigerian journalists on best investigative journalism practices.
Since FY 2016, the U.S. government has provided foreign assistance for anti-corruption efforts in Sri Lanka to improve the functioning of Sri Lanka’s legal system and civil society, and to enhance good governance.
Programs include the provision of a Resident Legal Advisor to provide anti-corruption and asset recovery training, and support to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption.
Since FY 2013, the U.S. government has provided foreign assistance for anti-corruption efforts in Tunisia, including strengthening rule of law and Tunisia’s law enforcement sector. Technical assistance programs improved public financial management; capacity building through the Open Government Partnership (OGP) helped Tunisia’s government and civil society to establish the necessary tools to bolster transparency and accountability in the public sector.
The Department of State is funding a grant to increase the capacity of the Tunisian Financial Judicial Police, the body responsible for prosecuting complex financial corruption cases.
Since FY 2013, the U.S. government has enhanced Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts by strengthening Ukraine’s legal system, law enforcement investigations, civil society, and customs enforcement.
U.S. foreign assistance contributed to Ukraine’s seizure of roughly $1.3 billion in cash, with the discovery of more than $3.24 billion in stolen public funds. U.S. law enforcement professionals are embedded in Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) to help build anti-corruption and asset recovery capacity and strengthen Ukraine’s overall anticorruption efforts. U.S. support has contributed to 333 criminal proceedings, 207 notices of suspicion, and the finalization of 108 indictments in cases related to corruption. Ongoing programming will continue to build on these achievements.
The United States also provides funding through a Fiscal Transparency Innovation Fund, which works with civil society organizations to collect, analyze, and publicly disseminate energy-related information; works with the legislature, media, and civil society to promote transparency; promotes the accounting of quasi-fiscal activities within the budget; creates an energy sector discussion platform; and supports sub-grants to local civil society groups to promote transparency at city or local levels.
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