Nigeria’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, believes the absence of anti-corruption institutions and systems and reliance on cash are the main reasons corruption in rampant in Nigeria and other corruption-infested nations.
Speaking at an International Monetary Fund, IMF, panel discussion on Sunday at Washington DC, she explained how to deal with rampant corruption.
“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.”