‘Why anti-corruption drive is imperative for sustainable economic growth’

Akinrinade-1Professor Shola Akinrinade is the Provost of the Anti Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN)- the training and research arm of the Independent Corrupt practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). In this interview with ABOSEDE MUSARI, he recounts the various studies done in the past one year of the academy’s refocused agenda, pointing at how the issues of financial impropriety has been addressed in about 400 Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).

What has been your experience in the last one year that you have been the Provost of ACAN?

In the last one year, specifically in October 2014, when I assumed office, it was just to get our things ready for the real programme. What has happened is that there’s been a transition from ICPC Academy to Anti Corruption Academy of Nigeria. It’s not just a transition in name, but in focus, scope of activities and direction of work of the academy. The Academy was set up in 2004 as the ICPC training school. It functioned like that till 2014, when I was appointed. There was a conscious decision on the part of the board to change the direction of work and to expand the scope of activities of the academy in line with best practices in fighting corruption in other parts of the world.

Between 2004 and 2014, all the academy was doing was to train its own staff and hosting them in the academy premises. What we had was a hostel for the training school and there was no luxury. But by 2014, the board approved the change to ACAN with a new remit, which is to engage with the larger society in developing a national response to corruption in terms of building people’s capacity to fight corruption nationally. Not just something left for the agencies, but something you are taking to every part of the country, every segment and building the consciousness of people.

So our work remit has expanded to include training people in good governance and all matters relating to anti corruption, trying to build capacity of agencies and individuals to understand corruption within their domain and to fight it. So, everything we’ve done has gone beyond merely training the staff of the commission, but now we are engaging with the larger society on matters of transparency, accountability, good governance, integrity and things that build the environment for a sustainable fight against corruption. Indeed, there is a whole change of direction. We are building alliances with various sectors of the society, trying to develop their capacity to tackle corruption within their own sectors. We’ve worked with Chartered Institute of Bankers, universities, health and aviation sectors and we have other programmes that started last year, which will continue this year.

Apart from our internal training, last year we had a workshop for universities, polytechnics and colleges of education on academic and procurement integrity. We realised that our tertiary education system is the gateway to the future of this country because it is the institutions producing the manpower that drives the economy and the technical capacity of this country. So, if you can get it right with them, then we are not looking at the future. We are addressing people that are there now and those that are going to be important in this country in the future.

People raise questions about the quality of graduates of the Nigerian university, polytechnics and colleges, the teachings taking place in our schools and the kind of performance of our teachers, and students in external examinations. But look at the result of SSCE recently released, less than 34 per cent could transit to the next level because those are the ones that passed Mathematics and English and other relevant subjects. People are not looking at the structures. The structural response is what we are looking at to do. Look at the basis of failure in corruption within the system. When lecturers are failing to do their work the way they ought to, they are not training teachers they ought to. When people they trained leave and are working in the industry and cannot even perform, what happens?

UBEC and basic education are the gateway to our education system. If there are problems there, you know you are creating problems for the future. What have we done? We work with them to create integrity within their system. We worked with the aviation sector, targeting low-level corruption at our airports, trying to build the capacity of operators in the airport to tackle corruption within their own system. We are sensitising them and creating awareness on the need to create the right image for this country. When somebody enters this country for the first time and all the person gets are requests for money, bribes from different people, it sends a wrong signal.

What kind of experience do they go with?

We had an international conference in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to drive policy making within the system. The United Nations Development Programme commissioned us to train civil society organisations who are engaged in anti-corruption work. This is to build capacity on sustainable basis. Everything we are doing is not just for now, but to raise the bar in the fight against corruption. We had training with the local governments. You know the importance of local governments in governance in the country. The average Nigerian identifies more with the local governments. If there’s no integrity, if there is massive corruption at that level, we would be failing a lot of people. We are taking that training now to the level of local government chairmen, secretaries, director of finance and revenue officers. The essence is to make sure we are able to entrench integrity at the lowest level of governance. The last one we had was with the legislators. We’ve worked with legislators from states Houses of Assembly all over the country. We completed the process recently when we had legislators from Lagos, Kwara and Oyo. states The essence is to build legislative integrity and tackle corruption.

It’s a whole range of activities meant to address and build capacity in different segments of the society. Some of the things we started, which we couldn’t complete, but are still on is the proposal to have a workshop for the media on the war against corruption. The media is crucial to defining and driving the agenda. On the fight against corruption, if we can get the media on our side, a lot will be achieved because they move our message to different parts of the country. But if the media is corrupt, then there is a problem. We are talking about how the media can advance the agenda. These are issues we have been trying to address.

We are trying to have a discourse in healthcare delivery, to work with the health sector. We call it the National Dialogue on promoting integrity, accountability and transparency in healthcare delivery. We all know the challenges and the impact of lack of transparency, corruption in healthcare delivery. What we are doing is to build an alliance so that people can begin to address the issues.

In terms of direct impact, we can’t begin to analyse now, but we know from feedbacks from those who trained with us that people are beginning to get the message, which is very important. The important thing is to create attitudinal change. The message must be internalised. When you want to create change, it shouldn’t be on the surface, it must be something that people must believe in totally. It is that internal belief that will drive the process long after we are not training anybody. People who imbibed it on their own, and see it as their own fight will continue to drive the agenda. That is why we are doing a kind of catch them young. With the national values curriculum, anti corruption modules is being introduced from primary schools, as a way of teaching people about values. With the academic initiative on anti-corruption, we are trying to take it to the university level.

Late last year, we developed the curriculum and modules for anti-corruption elements for general studies in our tertiary institutions, which we want to work with regulatory authorities to introduce. It’s like getting people to internalise it from day one. We also work with various MDAs, about 400 of them. In terms of people we’ve reached, people who trained directly under us last year are about 1776. You know what that means when they begin to work in their various agencies.

Don’t you think the media is critical to stakeholders in fighting corruption?

For any venture to succeed you need communication. People must know what is happening. This is why we are actually looking for support from the media on the corruption workshop that we want to run. We need the support of the larger society to help reach this critical segment of society. At the end of the day, if you can have the media on your side, at least they can help us define the narratives, drive the agenda and tell the story. They help us sell the opinion. Some of us look forward to the writings of some columnists.

There are some columnists who are so influential with their columns such that people look out for them, and they cut across newspapers. When we have the media on our side, the agenda is made simpler. People respect their opinions. Indeed, the media is important to us.

Beside the usual trainings, is the academy going to be offering degree programmes?

When we started, we designed a Masters programme in anti-corruption studies targeted directly at practitioners. There will be modules depending on the kind of work you are doing with your agency. You can’t come to me as a job seeker and say you have a Masters degree in anti corruption studies. Work is experience. Our Masters programme is targeted at building the capacity of people already on the job. But again, we still have issues because we need to work with universities to get this on board. We are already discussing with two universities. Both have programmes and centres dealing with anti-corruption studies, so they are first reference in terms of who we are partnering with. Beyond that, the certification courses in anti-corruption studies, which we are thinking of running for people like journalists who are interested in the crime beat and anti corruption reporting.

For people in the public service sector, those dealing with procurement, those in audit and all those who have contact with things that have to do with integrity and corruption, we are trying to do a certificate course for them. There are initiatives that are on that will affect the larger sector of the society for good.

There must be a structural response, because its not enough to train. Take for instance the anti-corruption conference that we want to do. Critical to us is how we can engage the policy makers with proposals that are realistic. How can we use research to drive anti-corruption policies? Our country has one of the largest collections of anti-corruption agencies and legislations. We need to ask ourselves how effective they are. And we are saying that many of these things must be informed by research. When we are developing new policies, how does it relate to things we have found practical in terms of research?
You studied some sectors such as aviation, universities and the health. What impact were you able to make in these sectors and

How were you able to correct certain issues in those areas?

The ICPC is a large body. There is a whole unit charged with systems studies and planning research and review section. But nobody works in isolation. When we do corruption risk assessment, it’s not just to study the system and an agency but to help them get it right. For these past years, the training for universities, polytechnics and colleges of education was the consequence of the system study of the university that identified the number of areas of infraction. The study formed the basis of the training we ran for the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.

We now work with them directly. We give them a template of integrity plan and that this is how they should draw up their own response. And we go back to discuss with them how they entrench integrity in their system on a sustainable basis. We did it also with UBEC. It’s based on knowledge to work with them and get them to achieve their goals. Our purpose is to strengthen organisations. Any training we do, is to look at the weaknesses in their systems and help them to overcome it.

The aviation sector was slightly different. There has been studies and identification of training needs. But we need to go beyond what we are doing now to get to the root of the problem. While we are treating the manifestations at the airport in terms of the operators, we need to go to the root of the problem. That will be the next level of our training in the sector.

What are the specific challenges you identified in these sectors?

There’s only one problem in this country- integrity issues. It’s a major problem because if you can get it right in terms of transparency, accountability, if people cannot imbibe the right values towards public sector funds, we’ll still have a long way to go. We have integrity deficit in various segments of the society. We can’t deceive ourselves. If I begin to tell you what we found in different agencies, I won’t be helping them and I wont be helping us. Our aim is to strengthen, not to destroy them. And if I go public with the things they are doing, that’s what you’ll see. The improvement you’ll not see.



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