Anna Bossman, Director Department of Integrity and Anti-corruption trained as a lawyer over three decades ago in the University of Ghana. Over the years, she moved from law practice through expatriate life in Human Resources and back again into practice in a circuitous career that took her from her home country to Gabon and back again as Acting Commissioner, Human Rights and Administrative Justice. This assignment prepared her for the present job in the AfDB from which position she highlights the challenges associated with addressing the vexed question of corruption.
Corruption has been identified as the greatest obstacle to Africa’s development. What role is the AfDB playing to mitigate it?
The thing the Bank has done is to make its commitment to zero-tolerance for corruption known. In so doing, it established a division and units to help in the fight against corruption. It set up my department which looks into allegations of corruption and fraud in Bank-financed projects. The Bank also mandated my department and others to train staff as well as our contractors’ staff to raise awareness on corruption and make them understand why corruption is anathema to development. So we have outreaches, sensitisation programmes on how project implementation units may recognise red flags and how to encourage people to report instances of corruption. We are very keen on the code of conduct for all employees as well.
How does the Bank ensure that its projects are protected against fraud and corruption?
We ensure due diligence. We make sure that the Bank’s finances are protected and we have various ways and means of finding out what we need to know about the projects we fund. We ensure that all projects are properly vetted and insist on full disclosure of all factors that may affect them in the course of implementation as well as when they are handed over to the beneficiaries. The general idea is to improve the life of the end users and speed up the overall development of the economies of the beneficiary states and their private sectors.
What is the level of cooperation between the Bank and governments of its Regional Member Countries towards tackling corruption?
Most Regional Member Countries have representatives on the Board of the Bank and everyone is aware that we have to cooperate in the fight against corruption. The Bank’s President himself leads the battle and demonstrates this by the way he runs the institution and his continued emphasis on governance. He leaves no one in doubt about the Bank’s expectation of collaboration from member states, who have realised that it is in their interest to join forces with the Bank if they want maximum benefits from the assistance they get.
What are the major challenges of the Integrity and Anti-corruption Department?
The department has undergone restructuring to boost its capacity to deliver on its mandate. One of the main challenges, of course, has been the comprehension of people, that is, staffs and Regional Member Countries’ personnel as to what our role is. We have to heighten the visibility of the department and the preventive aspect of our mandate.
I won’t talk too much about resources because that is a general issue, but we have the assurance of getting the resources we need; may be not at the level or spread we would like, but we do get enough to perform our duties.
We need to institute the culture of integrity and transparency. That is not so much of a problem within the Bank as outside it.
Outside the Bank, what is the main obstacle or problem?
Simply put, leadership or lack of it and the Bank thoroughly understands this. Fortunately, many African leaders are getting increasingly aware of the importance of summoning up the political will to tackle corruption. For instance, with the on-going turmoil in many parts of the world since the financial crisis, more leaders are beginning to understand the concept of inclusive growth and its imperativeness of development and security.
The Bank is putting out information to the effect that corruption is implicated in such problems as youth unemployment, gender issues, environmental degradation etc, and the urgent need to view corruption as the destroyer that it is. Leaders must believe that development, and rapid one at that, is possible. They must also have an unflinching desire to bring people out of poverty just as the Bank preaches and promotes. The Bank was set up to inspire leaders. It is doing this by disseminating knowledge gathered over the years from its operations, and interaction with countries within and outside the continent as well as other development institutions.