Odious Debts Online
March 7, 2005
The long awaited final report of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa calls on the developed world to help Africa curb corruption by cleaning up its own act, reports the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
The report obtained in advance of its release this Friday by the London-based magazine Africa Confidential, concludes that corruption has been the single most important factor holding Africa back. Although the report urges African countries to work toward greater transparency in public financial management and government accountability to African civil society, it also signals a shift toward increased responsibility on the part of the developed world.
“It’s not enough to say Africans are corrupt, you have to ask who is corrupting them? It’s not enough to say Africans are stealing money, you have to ask who is banking that money for them?” one of the commission members, Anna Tibaijuka, told a press conference last month.
According to The Guardian, the commission report says developed nations can help African governments crack down on corruption by reporting suspicious sums of money held in secret western bank accounts and helping Africa to repatriate “money and assets stolen from the people.”
The report’s recommendation reflects a US Senate investigation last year of the Washington-based Riggs Bank which found Riggs executives and bank regulators had failed to monitor suspicious financial transactions involving hundreds of millions of dollars. The focus of the investigation concerned Riggs’ accounts held by the the Saudi Arabian Embassy, former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and investment accounts owned by the African nation of Equatorial Guinea and some of its leaders. Equatorial Guinea represented the bank’s largest client, with total deposits in 2003 ranging from $400 million to $700 million, mainly from royalties from oil production.
The Guardian also noted the commission report called for a crack down on bribe-takers and urged foreign companies involved in oil, minerals and other extractive industries to make their payments “much more open to public scrutiny.” In addition, the report recommended denying export credits to firms convicted of bribery.
The government is expected to officially release its Commission for Africa report on March 11, the same date as this year’s Comic Relief Day – a fund-raising day organized by the Comic Relief charity founded in the United Kingdom in 1985 in response to famine in Ethiopia. It now raises money for Africa and disadvantaged people in the United Kingdom.
The commission report will form the basis for discussion at the next Group of Eight (G8) summit of leading industrialised nations at Gleneagles, chaired by Mr Blair.
Africa Confidential magazine which obtained a copy of the final draft commission report, is available for access at www.africa-confidential.com. Full-text access however is limited to paid subscribers only.