Sunday, 31 July 2011

Africa: fighting corruption using the Web

It is easy for westerners to forget how endemic corruption is in less fortunate parts of the world such as the Middle East and Africa. Charities have to help direct resources to the poor and the hungry and to do this they need to know when money is being diverted into private pockets.

On p.23 of the summer issue of Christian Aid News Eric Gutierrez points out the complexity of the problem. Sometimes rulers have to allow armed gangs and rebel groups to  carry on an illicit trade or criminal activities in return for not causing too much disruption; and so many leaders are involved in bribery and fraud  that it is not uncommon for a politician to be re-elected despite previous convictions. In general, the priority is to deal with violent conflcit before corruption.

Some charities, like Christian Aid, try to tackle the problem at grass roots but to do so they need information and it turns out that the Internet is proving useful in getting it to where it’s needed.  Two examples:

Media-Analysis and Research Services Group was set up in 2005 to publish online evidence such as budget documents, bidding rules and project profiles. This helps journalists reporting on corruption and aids prosecutors in pursuing cases.

Rafael Marques, a journalist, diverted anti-corruption reports to from newspapers when the latter were bought off by companies fearing his reports. His website led to Daimler AG withdrawing from a joint venture with an Angolan general and also has led to the Cobalt oil company being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

There are of course difficulties, both political and technical, in maintaining these sites but they are helping citizens set up campaigns such as the Partnership for Change, a non-violent initiative in Kenya to 'end the impunity of corrupt politicians'. More internet-based anti-corruption action has originated in Angola with various Christian Aid partners such as
There is a long way to go but it is good to see from the above and other evidence that corruption in parts of the developing world is being taken increasingly seriously by aid agencies, governments and the indigenous peoples. As with most misery in the world human frailty and evil are the root cause. 

Feedback welcome.

author, 2077 AD