Nigeria’s Whistleblowing Policy: A Good Start, But Not Enough

On December 21, 2016, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Finance approved a whistleblowing program as part of the Nigerian government’s continued efforts to fight corruption. Key features of the program include the launch of an online portal for submission of tips and the establishment of a reward for “information that directly leads to the voluntary return of stolen or concealed public funds or assets” (the reward is 2.5 to 5% of the amount recovered, with the percentage decreasing as the amounts recovered increases). As over $176 million in stolen funds was recovered within the first two months of the program, the whistleblowing policy appears to be an overnight success story. Nevertheless, although stolen funds are indeed being recovered, the existing policy does not do enough to offset the risks that whistleblowers face when they come forward with information, and this deficiency may limit the long-term effectiveness of the program. In particular, there are three aspects of the program that the government ought to reform in order to encourage individuals to assume the risks associated with becoming a whistleblower, and consequently to ensure the policy’s continued success. Continue reading

Guest Post: Will the International Community Squander its Resources in Burkina Faso?

Today’s guest post comes from an independent anticorruption expert based in West Africa, who writes under the pseudonym Girolamo de Lys and can be contacted at girolamodelys@gmail.com:

A fortnight ago, at a donor roundtable in Paris, the international community—principally the World Bank, EU, France, and United States—promised US$12.4 billion, to be spent over the next four years, in support of Burkina Faso’s national development plan. Hailed as a great success, the conference surpassed everyone’s expectations and raised more than double the target of US$5.8 billion set by the Government of Burkina Faso. Part of the roundtable’s success can be explained by the fact that Burkina Faso is seen as a promising emerging democracy. The country’s 27 years of autocratic rule ended in October 2014 with a popular uprising, and in 2015, the Transitional Government and National Council adopted a series of laws reforming the country’s governance system and bolstering its rule-of-law credentials. These reforms included a new anticorruption law (adopted in March 2015), which prohibits officials from accepting gifts worth more than US$60, and another law strengthening the anticorruption body (adopted in November 2015). Both anticorruption laws are considered by experts as “the most advanced” anticorruption laws in West Africa. However, in recent weeks these laws have come under stress, as they started to show their teeth. As the anticorruption body has opened investigations into the receipt of gifts by members of parliament, some politicians have questioned the desirability of this new anticorruption framework, and the survival of these new laws is now at stake.

The Constitutional Review Commission, set up by the President of Burkina Faso to propose amendments to the Constitution, is now deliberating whether to propose scrapping or watering down the constitutional provision that sets up the anticorruption body and its accompanying organic law. The constitutional revisions will be put to Parliament in early 2017 and some MPs are likely to see this as their chance to finish off an institution capable of scrutinizing their day-to-day conduct and that of the government. If the executive and legislative power of Burkina Faso decide to tinker with the anticorruption laws, by all accounts this will end the anticorruption body’s independence and effectiveness, and end one of the sole adequately established anticorruption legal frameworks in West Africa. Moreover, without an effective anticorruption system in place, the international community’s planned US$12.4 billion investment in Burkina Faso will be at risk of being diverted to private use, rather than contributing to national development projects.

As the international community engages in a constructive dialogue with the Government of Burkina Faso, it ought to consider the following strengths of the current anticorruption system in place and seek its protection from unnecessary legal amendments: Continue reading

Is Corruption Partly Responsible for the Ebola Crisis?

There’s been an interesting mini-debate over at the FCPA Blog about whether, or to what extent, corruption is partly responsible for the severity of the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Richard Cassin, the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog, argued that it is. He made this argument initially in a post from this past August entitled “Ebola tragedy is also a story of graft.” He offered as evidence the following observations: (1) the WHO and other observers estimate that a very high percentage–perhaps up to 25%–of global spending on public health is lost to corruption; (2) the very high Ebola fatality rates in West Africa have been attributed in part to the lack of adequate intensive care facilities to administer the treatments; and (3) the countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak–Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria–are reputed to be highly corrupt, as indicated by their very poor scores on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

Many critics who commented on Cassin’s initial post complained that the evidence offered did not in fact support the strong claim in the title that corruption has contributed significantly to the Ebola outbreak. In particular, the critics pointed out that: (1) the fact that a great deal of public health spending generally is lost to corruption does not actually tell us whether corruption was a major factor in the particular case of the Ebola outbreak, and (2) the low ranking of the affected countries on the CPI likewise–even if we concede that the CPI is a decent measure of actual corruption–does not indicate that corruption caused (in any significant way) the Ebola outbreak to be as lethal as it has been; at most it shows a correlation that might be explained by any number of other factors.

Cassin responded with a second post last month in which he rebutted the critics. He acknowledged that while one can never establish with “scientific certainty” that corruption has a causal effect on the severity of the Ebola outbreak, there is powerful circumstantial evidence that corruption is a “gateway” to this and other public health crises (as well as other problems like terrorism and crime), because it siphons off public resources. Cassin cites to a couple of research papers that purport to show that corruption in general has adverse impacts on public health, in particular because it adversely affects access to clean water and sanitation.

While I’m generally sympathetic to Cassin’s larger point, I think that the criticisms are fair ones. Here’s my take. Continue reading