Conversations: Cost of Corruption Discussion Forum

December 7, 2016

Event Summary
Discussions around figures lost to mismanagement of public purses have become rhetorics in the Nigerian space. The top-bottom approach which has been the most commonly driven perspective seems to yield little or no result given that there is a misconstrued notion that corruption is a scourge existing only in high positions of authority. The citizens lay blame on public officials (top-bottom) without a critical look at the what citizens perceive corruption as, the actions that bolster the related acts and what they can do to hit the back the ball of corruption. Further contributing to the spread of knowledge on the implication of corruption in the society,

BudgIT through the Access Nigeria Project organised a COST OF CORRUPTION DISCUSSION FORUM to engage stakeholders on the possibly overlooked causes and cost of corruption.

The Cost of Corruption Discussion forum which took place in Lagos state at Four Points by Sheraton on the 23rd November 2016 had leaders in respective fields as panelists. The  keynote speaker, Dr Andrew S. Nevin,the Chief Economist of PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PWC), made a presentation on implications of the current state of corruption in Nigeria and a projection of its consequences in 15 years.

Dr Andrew (@nevinomics), in his presentation, titled Nigeria’s Economy and Cost of Corruption, stated that the deliberate efforts to reduce corruption would support the federal government’s diversification drive and increase revenue in sectors that have been contributed less to the basket of income of the nation. He identified certain indicators as the macroeconomic outcomes of corruption : lower labour productivity, less capital formation, inequity and poverty, lower economic growth. He also spoke extensively on the channels by which corruption thrives:lower human capital, higher leakage through money laundering less investment, weak fiscal revenue and expenditure, poor institutions, etc.

Dr Andrew in his comparison between Nigeria, Ghana and Malaysia stated that Nigeria’s GDP could increase by as much as $534 billion by 2030 if it reduces corruption to the level of Malaysia. He noted that this milestone is achievable through the critical focus on the increasing Nigeria’s ease of doing business rank and labour productivity. Nigeria currently ranks 169th out of 190 countries –  one level better than its position in 2015 (170).

Moving away from financial implications of corruption and solutions to increasing productivity and ensuring revenue base is efficiently managed, five (5) other panellists discussed the effects of corruption on the private sector, citizen, industrial, religious and commercial standpoints. On the panel session were Tunji Lardner (Executive Director, WANGONET), Ndidi Nwuneli (Founder, LEAP Africa), David Ugolor (Executive Director, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ), Vincent Nwani (Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry).

The panelists talked about the motives and actions revolving around the encouragement of corruption, moral assessment and reflection every Nigerian needs to support the anti-corruption crusade. The panel session promulgated inefficient and ineffective system as an enabler of corruption hence why extortion and bribery have managed to establish a position in the system commonly recognised as a norm.

Unclear service delivery process in public offices encourage scenarios where users (citizen) are required to pay more than the official fee to get services. A typical example raised during the discussion is the obtainment of driver’s license and Nigerian passport. This conversation extended to the online community where respondents poured in varying amount paid to get their driver’s license in Nigeria. Officially, the price of getting a driver’s license according to the Federal Road Safety Commission is N6,340 however, Nigerians over the years have been paying double, triple, quadruple of the official fees to obtain the Nigerian passport. Worthy to note that some stated to have offered an extra fee to get the passport due to the lengthy and enervating processes attached to getting the document.

The session moderator, Oluseun Onigbinde, asked the panellists and participants if the Nigerian economy and system could only thrive on corruption. He related this to his experience on taking first flights and last flights on Mondays and Fridays between Lagos and Abuja which he said have been less occupied when compared to the previous administration. The question thus was if the anti-corruption war by the Buhari government has an adverse effect on the performance of some sectors of the economy.

Ndidi Nwuneli, the Executive Director of LEAP Africa, narrated her experience with a competitor in the Chili Pepper business who offered clients cheaper goods and in turn gets more patronage and was found to cut corners on the production volume which reduced the quality of the products. According to  her, this is one of the immorality and lack of professional ethics which breeds and fortifies corruption if not curtailed at the right time.

Corruption is controllable through inclusive and collective tackling by both government and citizens. Transparency remains the most effective tool to combating corrupt practices and ensuring public finds work in best interest of the people creating a more efficient system. Some cases of lives affected by the ripple effects of corruption are collated in a publication titled Cost of Corruption Discussion Note which was shared to push conversations on corruption and serve as a reminder of the need to tackle corruption across every sector.

A PriceWaterhouseCoopers Report estimates that if left alone, corruption in Nigeria could cost up to 37% of GDP, that is near $2,000 per person that lives in Nigeria by 2030.  So what actions are we taking as citizens, elected officials, non-elected officials, and religious leaders? The call for transparency is directed at reducing mismanagement of public funds and also ensuring that

taxpayers money is judiciously utilised to create a better service system.

The next session and presentation of platform holds February 2017 in Abuja

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About Access Nigeria Project

Access Nigeria Project (AGJS) is supported by the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) through Partners Global. This project focuses on accountability and transparency of the justice and security sectors in each country, building unique experience working with diverse stakeholders around the world to create more open and efficient justice and security sectors.  The Access Nigeria Project (#AccessNG) is coordinated in Nigeria by BudgIT Nigeria, Public Private Development Centre, CLEEN Foundation and CDD West Africa, and Partners West Africa.