Anti-corruption work requires a whole-of-society approach; effective efforts cannot be conducted in silos. The success of anti-corruption authorities, the organizations tasked with leading national approach to countering corruption “strongly depends on their capacity to enforce, coordinate, and collaborate with multiple partners,” according to Hady Fink, a PTF Europe adviser.
On December 8 and 10, PTF Europe and PTF Africa hosted two training sessions as part of a Stakeholder Management Course run by the Commonwealth Africa Anti-Corruption Centre (CAACC). The sessions were run by Fink, and PTF Advisers Aileen Marshall and Emmanuel Noubissie. This training marked the first initiative held as part of a new partnership between PTF and CAACC.
The training sessions, attended by representatives from twelve anti-corruption authorities (ACAs) throughout Commonwealth Africa, focused on cooperation between ACAs and civil society organizations (CSOs), as well as monitoring and evaluation of work conducted through these partnerships. The trainings were well-received, and have laid the foundation for upcoming PTF training sessions with CAACC in 2022.
To elaborate on the key themes of the training and anti-corruption work in Commonwealth Africa, Hady Fink participated in an interview with PTF. His insights and analysis are detailed below:
Q: What is the primary role of anti-corruption authorities (ACAs)?
HF: As specialized agencies, their role is to lead and implement the government’s approach to countering corruption. There are different types of ACAs. Depending on their mandate, they may work to prevent or counter corruption, or do a combination of both. Accordingly, their primary role depends on the legal and institutional framework of the country and their specific mandate.
Q: How can their work be improved by working with civil society organizations and other key stakeholders?
HF: Independently of their particular role, all ACAs are tasked with working on cross-cutting issues. Corruption, transparency, integrity, and accountability involve multiple stakeholders across all sectors of society, public, private, and civil. They cannot work in isolation. Instead, their success strongly depends on their capacity to enforce, coordinate, and collaborate with multiple partners. Civil society can be a key partner for ACAs in two ways: in their outreach to the public to gather support for their work and as partner in implementation, such as for example in our PTF project in Moldova, and in the form of monitoring public procurement.
Q: What is the most pressing current issue that ACAs and CSOs could collaboratively address?
HF: The most pressing issues depend on the local context: the corruption problems and the objectives of the country. The mandate of the ACA, its strategic goals, programmatic plans, and the capacity and approach of CSOs in the country need to be considered as well. To stay with the example of monitoring public procurement: without publicly available data, it would make little sense to work on engaging CSOs in this kind of activity.
Q: What are the primary barriers to collaboration between ACAs and CSOs? And the greatest incentives?
HF: The primary barriers are difficult to generalize because they very much depend on the situation in each country. It appears that in some contexts, there is general mistrust between the two parties. As opposed to the ACA, civil society is not a homogenous body with a clear mandate. It is made up of multiple, uncoordinated actors with different capacity, incentives, financial, and human resources. Collaboration is therefore a natural challenge—but if done successfully, very rewarding.
From the point of view of ACAs, the most appealing point of engaging with civil society is to generate public support, which is key for their success. Depending on the situation, working with government institutions including ACAs can involve financial and reputational support as well as access to information, capacity building measures, and opportunities to generate results through consultations in the process of defining a national anti-corruption strategy, for example.
Q: How does monitoring and evaluation relate to stakeholder engagement?
HF: Generating and documenting measurable results is a core challenge for ACAs. Due to the clandestine nature of corruption and the associated difficulties of assessing its levels, as well as the success in preventing or combating it, make this much more difficult than in cases of the conventional line ministries. Strong monitoring and evaluation concepts are key for ACAs to implement an evidence-based approach to document their success, and the exceptions, unfortunately. Given the fact that measurements of corruption often involve perceptions, engaging stakeholders is key to understanding these perceptions and the underlying problems – and then defining programs to address them. Involving stakeholders will also help improving perceptions when actors of the private sector or civil society see that the ACA is generating measurable results.
Q: What was the greatest takeaway from the two trainings with CAACC ACAs?
HF: Previous experience was confirmed that ACAs are well aware of the potential benefits of working with civil society, but at the same time they see the potential risks and challenges, as mentioned before. To start bridging that gap, good practice examples, tools, and successful approaches can help incentivize both sides to adopt a more collaborative approach. Most of the CSOs PTF works with are keen to support governmental bodies—including ACAs—prevent and combat corruption and would like to be regarded as collaborators who can bring information, expertise, and outreach to their constituents. As for the ACAs, it is not their sole responsibility, but in many cases, they could adopt a more proactive approach as they are in a stronger position than most CSOs, both financially and institutionally.
Q: What are some of the potential long-term benefits from partnerships between organizations working in anti-corruption, such as the one between PTF and CAACC?
HF: We have talked about the benefits between ACAs and CSOs in particular countries. The partnership between PTF and CAACC is different, as PTF is a CSO that is active internationally with subsidiaries and projects around the world, while CAACC is a network organization whose members are ACAs of 18 different countries. I see the potential of our cooperation in the fact that we share a common objective of fighting corruption, but we have different backgrounds, expertise, and experience. PTF can offer its expertise of over 20 years assisting civil society in anti-corruption work. Through the cooperation with CAACC we can engage with its members, the ACAs in individual countries. Hopefully, through trainings like this one, we can also help them build their capacities while at the same time working towards bridging the gap between civil society and ACAs.
The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official views of PTF.