The three day African Anti-Corruption Dialogue 2020 has kicked off, setting the tone for in-depth deliberations on the state of corruption on the continent, the role judicial systems have played in deterring graft and emerging threats particularly from the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual continental dialogue convened under the theme “Fighting Corruption through Effective and Efficient Judicial Systems”, will advocate for strong judicial systems while making considerations on the negative impact and consequences corruption has, especially if it infiltrates systems of justice and accountability, thereby eroding the principle of the rule of law and breeding impunity.
Convened by the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption, the Dialogue observes that progress has been made by African Union Members in the fight against corruption and the implementation of policies and commitments that address the haemorrhage of resources through corrupt means. This is evident where states have engaged in reforms such as establishing courts specializing in economic and financial crimes; establishment of integrity committees, specialized ombudspersons and help desks and hotlines to deal with reported instances of corruption; as well as implementation of information, communication and technology tools to speed up judicial processes, enhance accountability and facilitate transparency. Regionally, networks have been formed to enhance accountability in the administration of justice and foster exchange of best practices, underscoring the prominence of functional, independent and effective institutions, including the judiciary.
The dialogue will however deliberate and make policy recommendations on practical actions that address existing and emerging challenges such as the;
– Insufficient coordination between investigative, prosecutorial and judicial arms creating inefficiency and delays in dealing with anti-corruption cases;
– The sectoral nature of Anti-corruption measures that have failed to focus on the wider administration of the chain of justice;
– Challenges in dealing with high level corruption within agencies;
– Difficulties in dealing with political and grand corruption cases;
– Delays in the finalization of corruption cases and the proportionality and enforcement of sentences;
– Slow uptake in utilization of information, communication and technology tools across the administration of justice chain.
The Chairperson of the Advisory Board Begoto Miarom, recognizes that corruption in the justice sector can erode public trust, create a culture of lack of accountability, and weaken confidence in public institutions. Corruption similarly impedes the ability of justice systems to ensure the protection of human rights, creates uncertainty in the application of the law, and affects the responsibilities and duties of all those involved in the administration of justice. Begoto states, “there is no doubt that corruption is a scourge that affects all areas of society. However, if there is one area in which corruption has a negative impact that can have disastrous consequences on other areas, it is in the area of justice and accountability because it can distort the application of the principle of the rule of law and lead to impunity.”
Day one of the Dialogue focused on “Enhancing Transparency and Accountability in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic”, to promote transparency in the management of donations and other funds deployed to fight the pandemic, further calling on judicial system to ensure indictment over abuses and misuse of the resources. It was a platform to identify the challenges and bottlenecks related to the effective and efficient handling of corruption cases in the wake of the pandemic and to identify regional and international best judicial practices in the fight against corruption and to formulate recommendations and strategies. Begoto noted that the commitment to good governance must be strengthened even during the current uncertainties. “We must work hard to achieve the objectives we have set ourselves through the African Union’s Agenda 2063, particularly its aspiration 3 which advocates for an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.”