23 June 2018

Africa: Official Quits AU Anti-Corruption Body Over 'Multiple Irregularities'

A member of the African Union's anti-corruption advisory board has resigned over the body's alleged corruption. Daniel Batidam, who served for three years, denounces "multiple irregularities" within the organisation that are hindering its fight against graft.

"Enough is enough," Batidam wrote in his resignation letter dated June 8 2018.

The Ghanaian, who was elected Chairperson of the AU's Advisory Board on Corruption in 2015, before becoming an ordinary board member two years later, is leaving before the end of his mandate in 2019, out of frustration.

"It has been virtually difficult if not impossible for the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board to carry out its mandate," he told RFI.

Abuse of power, lack of transparency and accountability, he says, have hindered his work.

"These issues have come up over and over again," he comments.

In December 2016, the 11 board members signed a petition to the Chairperson of the AU Commission, the Chadian Begoto Miarom, to address corruption within the organisation.

Despite the Commission setting up an investigation committee in March 2017 to address their complaints, "we still don't have the final report of that investigation," regrets Batidam.

The African Union Advisory Board on Corruption was set up in 2009 as a follow-up mechanism to implement the AU's convention on fighting corruption.

However Batidam says the board is failing in that mandate.

"The board has to be enabled to carry out its mandate, you can't fight corruption with corruption," he insists.

Quitting in year to fight corruption

That's why he's leaving. His resignation was accepted on June 14 by the Deputy Chairman of the African Union, Kwesi Quartey.

In his letter of response, Quartey wrote that "it is regrettable" that Batidam is leaving "considering that our objective for the year is to fight corruption."

"If the only thing that is regrettable is the fact that I'm leaving during the Anti-Corruption Year, I think that is pathetic," retorts the resigning board member.

"We have been raising issues bordering on mismanagement (...) for many years without getting a response. And ironically, I tendered in my resignation, and in less than a week my resignation is accepted."

For Batidam, it's a sign that the Commission will "continue with business as usual."

"It tells me that they're not interested in looking at the things that I raised in my resignation letter," he said.

An official from the African Union who spoke on condition of anonymity, didn't deny Batidam's claims, but told RFI it was virtually impossible to do anything about them.

'Finance poverty not corruption'

Meanwhile, Batidam's successor as Chairperson of the AU Advisory Board on Corruption, Begoto Miarom, told RFI that his resignation still needed to be validated.

"The letter of response by the Deputy Chairman [Kwesi Quartey] was not valid. It must first get the approval of the African Union's Advisory Committe," he said.

Those discussions should take place on the sidelines of the upcoming AU summit in Mauritania from the 1st-2nd of July.

Miarom however, dismissed the corruption allegations raised by Batidam, saying "we are firmly engaged in this year's campaign theme aimed at fighting corruption."

However Batidam wants African leaders, when they gather in Mauritania, to put pressure on the African Union to reform.

"It is my hope that they will call on people in high places at the Commission to take responsibility."

If they don't, the 52-year-old urges African citizens to question the need for a continental body such as the African Union and its adjoining structures which "are taking millions and millions of dollars to keep running."

That money could address poverty on the African continent and "yet we are using it to finance corruption. I think this is wrong," he said.

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