A forum tracking progress towards the 2030 sustainable development agenda has been taking place in Niger this week. With matters of security preoccupying policymakers and the public across the region, the moment has come for commitments made by United Nations members to be translated into action.
The aim of the ninth Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development is to take stock of how far countries have progressed towards the implementation of five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an ambitious set of development targets to be met by 2030.
However Goal 16, “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”, is not part of the review, although the security challenges facing countries including Niger, Nigeria and Mali should serve to remind delegates of the urgent need to address corruption-related risks to defence and security.
Goal 16 includes commitments to fight corruption, increase transparency, tackle illicit financial flows and improve access to information to achieve peaceful societies. Without meaningful action to reduce corruption, little progress will be achieved in the five SDGs selected for discussion: Goals 6 (clean water and sanitation); 7 (affordable and clean energy); 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure); 11 (sustainable cities and communities); and 17 (partnerships for the Goals).
Corruption, organised crime, the use of illicit financial flows to fund terrorism and violent extremism and forced displacement of people threaten to reverse much development progress made in recent decades. Mali is a case in point. Impunity to corruption, terrorism, drug trafficking and other forms of transnational organised crime undermine stability and development.
In Nigeria, where high-profile elections have been fought in recent days, memories of the deadly End SARS protests continue to linger.
Elsewhere conflicts and instability add to natural disasters, causing untold human suffering. Our ability to prevent and resolve conflicts and build resilient, peaceful and inclusive societies has often been hampered by endemic and widespread corruption.
We must take action and do so by embracing a “whole-of-society approach,” fostering dialogue, cooperation, and partnerships between state and non-state actors to promote transparency, accountability, and effective oversight, in line with Goal 16 of the SDGs.
Failing to take action on SDG 16 following the forum would be a missed opportunity, especially when coordinated efforts and commitments are needed from states in and out of Africa, to address the complex problem of corruption and its threat to human lives.
Jacob Tetteh Ahuno, Projects Officer, Ghana Integrity Initiative; Mohamed Bennour, Transparency International Defence and Security Project Manager; Ara Marcen-Naval, Transparency International Defence and Security Head of Advocacy; Bertha Ogbimi, Programme Officer, CISLAC; Abdoulaye Sall, President of CRI 2002
Image: Lagos, Nigeria, during the End SARS protests of October, 2020.
Michael Ofori-Mensah, Head of Research at Transparency International Defence and Security, describes some of the dangers documented in our latest research paper.
Unaccountable private military and security companies continue to pursue partnerships that in recent years have led indirectly to the assassination of presidents and journalists, land grabs in conflict zones, and even suspected war crimes.
From Haiti to Saudi Arabia to Nigeria, US-based organisations – the firms that dominate the market – have found themselves associated with a string of tragedies, all while their sector has grown ever-more lucrative.
Transparency International Defence and Security’s latest research – ‘Hidden Costs: US private military and security companies and the risks of corruption and conflict – catalogues the harm playing out internationally as countries increasingly seek to outsource national security concerns to soldiers of fortune.
Hidden costs from the trade in national security
While the US and other governments have left the national security industry to grow and operate without proper regulation, the risks of conflict being exploited for monetary gain are growing all the time.
Hidden Costs documents how the former CEO of one major US private military and security company was convicted – following a guilty plea – of bribing Nigerian officials for a US$6bn land grab in the long-plundered Niger Delta.
Our research also highlights that the Saudi operatives responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s savage murder received combat training from the US security company Tier One Group.
Arguably most damning are the accounts from Haiti, where the country’s president was killed last year by a squad of mercenaries thought to have been trained in the US and Colombia.
Many governments around the world argue that critical security capability gaps are being filled quickly and with relatively minimal costs through the growing practise of outsourcing.
Spurred on by the US government’s normalisation of the trade, US firms are growing both their services and the number of fragile countries in which they operate.
The private military and security sector has swelled to be worth US$224 billion. That figure is expected to double by 2030.
The value of US services exported is predicted to grow to more than $80 billion in the near future, but the industry and the challenge faced is global.
The risks of corruption and conflict in the pursuit of profits are plain.
These risks are as old as time. But their modern manifestations in warzones must not be left to spill over. The 20-year war in Afghanistan cultivated dynamics that threaten further damage, more than a decade after governments first expressed their concerns.
International rules and robust regulation are urgently needed. We need measures that ensure mandatory reporting of private military and security company activities. The Montreux Document lacks teeth, operating as it does as guidance that is not legally binding. Code of conduct standards must also become mandatory for accreditation, rather than purely voluntary.
Most private military and security firms are registered in the US. So Transparency International Defence and Security is also calling on Congress to take a leading role in pushing through meaningful reforms under its jurisdiction. There is an opportunity arriving in September, when draft legislation faces review.
Policymakers have long been aware of the corruption risks and the related threats to peace and prosperity posed by this sector. The time for action is well overdue. No more Hidden Costs.
By Julien Joly, Thematic Manager, Corruption, Conflict and Crisis, Transparency International Defence & Security
Corruption, conflict and instability are profoundly intertwined. It has been shown time and again that corruption not only follows conflict but is also frequently one of its root causes.
Broadly speaking, corruption fuels conflict in two ways:
- By diminishing the effectiveness of national institutions; and
- By generating popular grievances.
Both of these elements contribute to undermining the legitimacy of the state, and in conflict this can empower armed groups who present themselves as the only viable alternative to corrupt governments. In turn this further contributes to the erosion of the rule of law, thus fuelling a vicious cycle.
Despite this, relatively little attention has been given to addressing corruption through peacebuilding efforts. As corruption is increasingly recognised for its role in fuelling conflict and insecurity around the world, it is imperative that initiatives seeking to address the root causes of violence and build lasting peace take this into consideration.
As a key element of the post-conflict peacebuilding agenda, Security Sector Reform (SSR) lends itself ideally to address the nexus between corruption and conflict. Applying the principles of good governance to the security sector to ensure that security forces are accountable offers legitimate avenues to mitigate corruption.
Nonetheless, evidence shows that strategies to mitigate corruption often fail to receive sufficient attention when it comes to designing and implementing SSR programmes. Such programmes overwhelmingly target tactical and operational reforms, designed for instance to train security forces or provide them with weapons and equipment, at the expense of structural reforms which would focus on bolstering accountability and reducing corruption. Similarly, in SSR policy frameworks developed by international and regional organisations, corruption is too often mentioned superficially and largely marginalised in favour of the ‘train-and-equip’ approaches described above. However, since the emergence of the concept of Security Sector Reform (SSR) in the 90s, there has been a shift from state-centric notions of security to a greater emphasis on human security. In this paradigm, based on the security of the individual, their protection and their empowerment, traditional ‘train-and-equip’ approaches to SSR have shown their limits.
It is clear that transparency, accountability, and anti-corruption are vital to ensure that security sector governance is effective. This means developing new approaches to SSR that, among other things, address corruption effectively.
In many areas, the anti-corruption community and the peacebuilding community would benefit from each other’s expertise. Reforming human resources management and financial systems, strengthening audit and control mechanisms, supporting civilian democratic oversight: these are areas where anti-corruption practitioners have been developing significant expertise over the past decades. They also happen to be key components of SSR.
But drawing from this expertise is only the beginning. In order to promote sustainable peace and contribute to transformative change in security sector governance, SSR needs to take a corruption-sensitive approach and address corruption as a cross-cutting issue. This requires implementing anti-corruption measures as a thread running through all SSR-related legislation, policies and programmes. In other words, this requires ‘mainstreaming anti-corruption in SSR’, which involves making anti-corruption efforts an integral dimension of the design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of SSR policies and programmes.
While strengthening accountability and effectiveness in the security sector, anti-corruption provisions in SSR can be crucial in addressing some of the drivers and enablers of conflicts. Moreover, by upholding high standards of accountability, probity and integrity within the defence and security forces, anti-corruption fosters the protection against human rights abuses and violations. Ultimately, mainstreaming anti-corruption into SSR can harness its capacity to create political, social, economic and military systems conducive to the respect for human rights and dignity, ultimately contributing to long-lasting human security.
This blog is based on The Missing Element: addressing corruption through SSR in West Africa, a new report by Transparency International Defence and Security, available here.
La corruption dans le secteur de la sécurité a un impact néfaste à la fois sur le secteur de la sécurité lui-même et sur la paix et la sécurité au sens plus large, en alimentant conflits et instabilité. Des études quantitatives ont mis en évidence la correlation entre corruption et instabilité étatique. Les états dominés par des systèmes fondés sur le clientélisme sont plus susceptibles de souffrir d’instabilité. Il est peu surprenant que 6 des 10 pays ayant obtenu le score le plus bas dans l’Indice de perception de la corruption 2019 se trouvent également parmi les 10 pays les moins pacifiques dans l’Indice mondial de la paix 2020. La corruption nuit à l’efficacité des forces de sécurité et porte atteinte à la perception qu’ont les populations de la légitimité des autorités centrales.
En retour, cela alimente un sentiment de désillusion, menaçant ainsi le contrat social et, en fin de compte, l’état de droit. Dans certaines situations, la corruption peut également faciliter l’expansion des groupes extrémistes et non-étatiques et est devenue l’un des piliers des discours de recrutement. En dénonçant la corruption de l’Etat, ces mêmes groupes se présentent comme une alternative légitime aux gouvernements et aux élites corrompus.
Associée à des éléments tels que la pauvreté, les violations des droits de l’homme, la marginalisation ethnique et la proliferation des armes de petit calibre, la corruption du secteur de la sécurité a eu un effet alarmant sur la sécurité humaine en Afrique de l’Ouest. Au cours des trois dernières décennies, la corruption a appuyé certains des pires épisodes de violence dont la region a été témoin. Des guerres civiles au Liberia et en Sierra Leone au conflit actuel au Nigeria, où la corruption endémique a affaibli les forces de défense et de sécurité, alimenté la rancoeur à l’encontre des représentants des États et permis aux acteurs armés non-étatiques de combler le vide, la corruption a été un dénominateur commun de la plupart des conflits dans la région.
Pendant des décennies, la stabilité en Afrique de l’Ouest a été grandement perturbée par les conflits internes, souvent financés par la vente illégale d’armes ou l’extraction illicite de ressources naturelles. Que ce soit au Liberia, en Sierra Leone et en Côte d’Ivoire ou au Mali, au Burkina Faso et au Nigeria, la corruption a souvent conforté ces conflits et est à l’origine de mécontentements à l’égard des dirigeants politiques ainsi que de changements politiques violents.
En ébranlant la confiance du public et en nuisant à l’efficacité des institutions de défense et de sécurité, la corruption a porté atteinte à l’état de droit et a engendré une instabilité prolongée. Concrètement, cela a résulté pour de nombreuses personnes en une dégradation de l’accès aux services de base et a contribué à la création d’environnements propices aux violations des droits de l’homme.
Ce rapport soutient que, étant donné la grande menace que la corruption représente pour la paix et la stabilité en Afrique de l’Ouest, une attention accrue doit être portée aux travaux visant à lutter contre la corruption dans le cadre de la G/RSS. Il analyse le lien entre la corruption et les conflits en Afrique de l’Ouest par rapport à la prévalence des efforts visant à lutter contre la corruption dans les cadres de travail normatifs de la RSS, couramment utilisés en Afrique de l’Ouest, ainsi que dans un échantillon de pays entreprenant une G/RSS.
Par le biais de ce cadre de travail, notre recherche révèle le délaissement des efforts de lutte contre la corruption au profit d’approches de « formation et d’équipement » plus techniques. En conséquence, les structures de gouvernance sous-jacentes restent non affectées et les réseaux de corruption intacts, ce qui représente une occasion manquée d’exploiter les capacités de la G/RSS afin d’entraîner un changement transformateur.
This policy brief explains how corruption in the security sector has a detrimental impact both on the security apparatus itself and on wider peace and security, by fuelling tensions and adding to conflict and instability.
Quantitative studies have underscored how corruption and state instability are correlated, with states dominated by narrow patronage-based systems more susceptible to instability. It is little surprise that six out of the 10 lowest-scoring countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 are also among the 10 least peaceful countries in the Global Peace Index 2020. Corruption undermines the efficiency of security forces, damages populations’ conception of the legitimacy of central authorities and feeds a sense of disillusionment, which threatens the social contract, and ultimately the rule of law. In some situations, corruption can also facilitate the expansion of non-state and extremist groups and has become one of the lynchpins of recruitment narratives, which position these groups as a legitimate alternative to corrupt governments and elites.
Intersecting with factors that includes poverty, human rights violations, ethnic marginalisation and proliferation of small arms, security sector corruption has had an alarmingly negative effect on human security in West Africa. For the past three decades, corruption has underpinned some of the worst episodes of violence the region has witnessed. From civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone to the ongoing conflict in Nigeria, where rampant corruption has weakened defence and security forces, fuelled resentment against states’ representatives and enabled non-state armed actors to fill the vacuum, corruption has been a common denominator of most conflicts in the region.
February 25, 2021 – Stabilisation and peacebuilding efforts in West Africa are being undermined by a failure to address underlying corruption and a lack of accountability in the region’s security sectors, according to new research by Transparency International.
The Missing Element finds that strengthening accountability and governance of groups including the armed forces, law enforcement and intelligence services – not just providing training and new equipment – is a crucial but often neglected component to successful security sector reform (SSR).
By analysing examples from across West Africa, the report details how the high threat of corruption has undermined the rule of law, fuelled instability, and ultimately resulted in SSR efforts falling short of their objectives.
The report serves as a framework for policymakers to assess how corruption is fuelling conflict, then embed anti-corruption measures to reform the security sector into one which is more effective at maintaining peace and more accountable to the population it serves.
Natalie Hogg, Director of Transparency International’s Defence & Security Programme, said:
“Stabilisation and peacebuilding efforts across West Africa have focussed largely on providing training and equipment but rarely resulted in major change. This report details how a focus on anti-corruption and strengthening accountability has been the missing element. Only by recognising and understanding the impact of corruption in the defence and security sector and taking steps to combat it can these programmes hope to transform the sector into one which is both efficient and accountable.”
The Missing Element analyses security sector reform and governance in five countries that our research has previously flagged as being at a high risk of defence sector corruption: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.
It concludes these interventions fell short because the focus was on providing practical support such as training programmes and new weapons and equipment (with between 80-90% of funding for SSR initiatives typically spent on these) rather than addressing underlying corruption.
The report assesses the main corruption risks in West Africa which are undermining SSR efforts, including:
Limited or ineffective supervision over how defence budgets are spent present a huge corruption risk, but reforms to improve transparency in this area have often been neglected as part of SSR programmes.
National defence strategies in Niger and Nigeria are so shrouded in secrecy that it is impossible to determine whether defence purchases are legitimate attempts to meet strategic needs or individuals embezzling public funds. In Mali, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire, a lack of formal processes for controlling spending has resulted in numerous examples of unplanned and opportunistic purchases.
Defence sector oversight
Effective oversight and scrutiny of the defence sector by parliamentarians is essential to increase accountability and reduce opportunities for corruption, but despite being a key pillar of SSR, parliamentary oversight remains poor in West Africa.
In Ghana, only a handful of the 18 members of the Parliament Select Committee on Defence and Interior have the relevant technical expertise to perform their responsibilities. In Mali, the parliamentary body charged with scrutinising the defence sector was chaired by the president’s son until mid-2020. In Niger, the National Audit Office, which is responsible for auditing the defence sector’s spending, published its audit for 2014 in 2017.
- SSR policymakers at institutional level, such as United Nations (UN), African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to publicly acknowledge the nexus between corruption and conflict, and adapt SSR policy frameworks accordingly.
- SSR practitioners operating in West Africa to undertake corruption-responsive SSR assessments to better inform the design of national SSR strategies and in all phases of their implementation.
- SSR practitioners to build on anti-corruption expertise to ensure that corruption is addressed as an underlying cause of conflict.
Notes to editors:
Security sector refers to the institutions and personnel responsible for the management, provision and oversight of security in a country. Broadly, the security sector includes defence, law enforcement, corrections, intelligence services and institutions responsible for border management, customs and civil emergencies.
Security sector reform (SSR) is a process of assessment, review and implementation as well as monitoring and evaluation led by national authorities that has as its goal the enhancement of effective and accountable security for the state and its peoples without discrimination and with full respect for human rights and the rule of law.
The five countries analysed in this report (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Nigeria) were previously assessed in Transparency International Defence & Security’s Government Defence Integrity Index.
About Transparency International Defence & Security
The Defence & Security Programme is part of the global Transparency International movement and works towards a world where governments, the armed forces, and arms transfers are transparent, accountable, and free from corruption.
For decades, stability in West Africa has been severely disrupted by internal conflicts, commonly financed by the illegal sale of arms or the illicit extraction of natural resources. From Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire, to Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, corruption has often underpinned these conflicts and is the basis for grievances against political leaders and violent political change.
By eroding public trust and undermining the efficiency of defence and security institutions, corruption has undermined the rule of law and contributed to sustained instability. In practice, this has resulted in weaker access to basic services for many and has contributed to the creation of environments conducive to human rights violations.
This report argues that, given the significant threat that corruption presents to peace and stability in West Africa, a greater focus should be placed on anti-corruption work within security sector reform and governance (SSR/G). It analyses the nexus between corruption and conflict in West Africa against the prevalence of anti-corruption efforts in normative SSR frameworks, commonly used in West Africa, and in a sample of countries undertaking SSR/G.
Through this framework, our research reveals the neglect of anti-corruption efforts, to the benefit of more technical “train-and-equip” approaches. As a result, this leaves underlying structures untouched and corrupt networks undisturbed, and represents a missed opportunity to harness the capacities of SSR/G to lead to transformative change.
Despite promising initiatives, tackling corruption in the Nigerien security sector is still hindered by secrecy
By Flora Stevens, Project Officer – Global Advocacy
Africa’s Sahel has been plagued with conflict and insecurity for more than a decade, and the recent ramping up of violence in the region is putting already weakened armed forces under increased strain. Defence sectors across the region suffer from low levels of civilian democratic control, weak institutional oversight and are struggling to fulfil their mission to improve security in the face of a sharp uptick in attacks from non-state armed groups.
Sandwiched between jihadi militants operating in Mali and Burkina Faso to the west, Boko Haram and affiliated groups continuing to launch devastating attacks in Nigeria to the south and war-torn Libya to the north, Niger has found itself drawn into these conflicts. The complex operational requirements of bringing security to the country, with the huge distances between major settlements, porous borders and hundreds of thousands of displaced people, would pose a challenge for any armed force. But Niger, like its neighbours in the region, is also grappling with the debilitating issue of corruption in its defence sector.
Transparency International Niger has been part of the fight against corruption since 2001. The chapter works to raise public awareness of corruption issues and offers anti-corruption training to citizens. “This has enabled us to mobilise and engage citizens in the fight against corruption in our country,” said Hassane Amadou Diallo, head of the organisation. Transparency International Niger has recorded a series of major successes in its work, including a long-running advocacy campaign which culminated with Niger ratifying the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2006, and a separate effort to abolish the ‘entrance exam’ to the civil service, a highly competitive processes which on two occasions was marred by fraud and corruption.
More recently, working with Transparency International – Defence & Security, the chapter has been involved in tackling the pernicious issue of defence corruption. Despite recent promising initiatives at national level, efforts designed to fight corruption and improve defence governance have been hindered by a high level of secrecy. It was recently revealed that almost 40% of the $312 million Niger spent on defence procurement contracts over the last three years was lost through inflated costs or materiel that was not delivered, according to a government audit of military contracts. “More than 90% of the contracts awarded to the Ministry of Defence were negotiated by direct agreement, which favoured corruptive practices and overbilling”, said Hassane Amadou. “The competition is unfair, fictitious and sometimes non-existent.” These findings came as the crisis in the Sahel continues to worsen, with hundreds of Nigerien security forces killed in fighting. At the same time, troops on the front line have complained about a lack of kit or being provided with inadequate equipment. Hassane Amadou said the audit that uncovered the extent of the procurement mismanagement would now be subject to a lengthy legal challenge. “TI Niger is hoping a fair trial will take place and that those responsible will be punished in accordance with the law,” he said.
While the findings of the audit are shocking, they unfortunately do not come as a surprise. Transparency International – Defence and Security’s Government Defence Integrity Index (GDI) recently found that while government procurement regulations are clearly spelled out in law, there is a long-standing exemption for defence procurement. The 2016 Code of Public Procurements omits goods, equipment, supplies and services related to defence and security, which effectively leaves the door open to the sort of corrupt practices uncovered by the audit.
Hassane Amadou said that TI Niger has shared the main conclusions of the GDI findings with those in charge of the defence and security forces in the country. “On the basis of the GDI, we then developed an action plan targeting various stakeholders, namely the Ministry of Defence, the parliament, defence and security officials, technical and financial partners, the media and civil society,” he said.
But while there have been signs that Niger is striving to improve its security sector governance as a key pillar for future development and long-term peace and stability, the lack of emphasis on the issue of corruption could critically undermine the effectiveness and sustainability of the whole process.
Despite the impressive reform efforts of the past few years, including the 2016-2021 Renaissance Programme, the 2016 Anti-Corruption Bill, and the 2018 National Strategy to Fight Corruption, Niger is struggling to ensure their effective implementation. The Nigerien government should primarily focus on closing this gap and on rectifying loopholes that allow for corruption in the defence procurement sector to thrive. This could include revising relevant legislation to ensure it effectively applies to all defence acquisitions, with no exceptions.
It is fundamental for the Nigerien military to fully grasp the intrinsic link between corruption and operational efficiency. An important focus area must be the deployment of trained professionals to monitor corruption risks in the field. There is unfortunately currently little evidence of this. There is no pre-deployment corruption-specific training for personnel and no guidelines on addressing corruption risks during operations.
To tackle the security threats Niger is facing, mitigating corruption risks in the defence sector is paramount and requires a robust, disciplined and integrated approach on the part of the Niger government. It needs to ensure civilian oversight is strengthened through well-functioning oversight mechanisms, while making sure corruption is approached in a systemic or comprehensive manner during troop deployment.
By Matthew Steadman, Project Officer – Conflict & Insecurity
2019 was a deeply concerning year for the Sahel. Attacks by extremist groups have increased five-fold in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso since 2016, with the UN now describing the violence as “unprecedented”. The past year was the deadliest by far with more than 4,000 deaths reported. Niger lost 89 soldiers in a single attack by Islamic State in Changodar in January, whilst two ISGS attacks in Mali in November claimed the lives of 92 soldiers. In Burkina Faso alone, 1,800 people were killed in the past year due to extremist violence. The intensification of extremist activity in the Sahel threatens to engulf West African coastal states, as already weakened national defence and security forces come under increasing pressure. Much international coverage of the developing events has focussed on the operational aspect of the crisis, from the various armed groups operating in the region to the international response, spearheaded by France’s Operation BARKHANE but also including MINUSMA, the G5 Sahel, the United States and the EU. However, one aspect that has been regularly overlooked is the poor capacity of the region’s national defence forces to respond to security threats as a result of poor defence governance, corruption and weak institutions.
Corruption and conflict go hand in hand, with corruption often fuelling violence and subsequently flourishing in afflicted regions. Because of corruption and poor governance, defence and security actors are often seen not as legitimate providers of security, but as net contributors to the dynamics of conflict; with poor training, management and institutional support leading to a downward cycle in which it is the civilians that more than often feel the brunt – as has been seen in Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Mali. When security institutions are perceived as corrupt, public confidence in government erodes further. Fragile governments that are unable to respond to the needs of citizens can exacerbate existing grievances, heightening social tensions and hastening the onset of violence. Across the Sahel, armed groups have been able to entrench themselves first and foremost in those areas which have been neglected by weakened and corrupt central authorities, often by positioning themselves as providers of security, justice and basic services. In this way, it is crucial to view corruption not just as the consequence of conflict, but more often as its root cause and therefore a critical element for any attempt at resolution to address.
Against this backdrop, research by Transparency International – Defence & Security’s Government Defence Integrity Index (GDI), highlights the deficiencies in the safeguards which should provide protection against corruption in the defence sectors of Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, increasing the likelihood of defence funds and capabilities being wasted due to mismanagement of human, material and financial resources. In doing so, the GDI outlines a number of key issues which need to be addressed in order to enhance security forces’ ability to respond to threats and protect local communities:
Reinforce parliamentary oversight
Despite most countries having formal independent oversight mechanisms for defence activities, policies and procurement, our research has found that these are often only partially implemented, easily circumvented and insufficiently resourced to carry out their mandates. The result, is defence sectors which are still largely the preserve of the ruling elite and shrouded in secrecy, raising concerns over the use of vital defence funds and the management of resources and assets.
Strengthen anti-corruption measures in personnel management and military operations
Personnel management systems are also vulnerable, with inadequate or non-existent whistleblowing protections and reporting mechanisms, unclear appointment, and promotion systems open to nepotism, and codes of conduct which fail to specifically mention corruption or enforce appropriate sanctions. Equally, despite many countries in the region being actively engaged in on-going counter insurgencies, there is no evidence of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso or Nigeria having up to date doctrine which recognises corruption as a strategic threat to operations, meaning there is little if any appropriate training on the pitfalls associated with operating in corrupt environments and little appreciation of how soldiers’ conduct might exacerbate the violence they are trying to quell.
Increase transparency and external oversight of procurement processes
Perhaps most concerning of all is that corruption risks in defence procurement remain extremely high across the region. The procurement process is opaque and largely exempt from the checks and balances which regulate other areas of public procurement in countries like Mali and Niger for instance. Across the region, the effectiveness of audit and control mechanisms over the acquisition of military goods and services is heavily restricted by blanket secrecy clauses and over-classification of defence expenditure. This raises serious concerns over the utility, relevance and value for money of purchased equipment and increases the risk of that frontline troops will not have the resources required to deliver security.
Despite these structural vulnerabilities, international assistance in the region has been heavily focussed on security assistance rather than on improving the underlying structures that govern and manage defence and security in the states that make up the region. The 13th January summit between French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of the G5 Sahel countries, was emblematic of this with the meeting focussed on reaffirming France’s military presence in the region and announcing the deployment of further troops, whilst side-lining the governance deficit which underlies so much of the crisis. Programmes have tended to focus on training and equipping military and police forces in Mali and Burkina Faso for instance, or improving strike capabilities by investing in US drone bases in Niger. The concern however, is that the impact of these efforts will be blunted without a more sustained engagement in addressing the more fundamental failings that lay at the hearty of the problem. Mali’s recent announcement of a recruitment drive for 10,000 new defence and security forces personnel for example, will only be effective if it is accompanied with improvements in the way these troops are trained, led, equipped and managed and if the political and financial processes which govern them are strengthened and corruption risks reduced.
A successful response, at the national, regional and international levels, to the violence cannot be just security focussed. Poor defence governance and corruption risks will continue to hamper national forces’ operations and will hinder the impact of international efforts which support them. A more comprehensive approach is needed which addresses the underlying corruption risks which permeate the region’s defence sectors. Improving oversight, transparency and accountability is a critical step in securing a sustainable peace in the region and ensuring that defence and security apparatuses do what they should, which is to further the human security of populations that they should be serving.
6 December, Niamey – Security and stability in Niger are threatened by high levels of corruption risk in its national defence sector, according to new research by Transparency International – Defence & Security.
Niger’s defence sector scores poorly in the 2020 Government Defence Integrity Index, which is today being launched in Niamey. Receiving a majority of E and F grades, indicating either a “very high” or “critical” risk of defence corruption, the analysis assesses corruption risk across five key areas: political, financial, operations, personnel and procurement.
But Niger’s overall score of 22/100 places it above the regional average of 18/100, with levels of corruption risk in the country’s political, financial and procurement categories lower than in the region, but higher in terms of personnel and operations.
Steve Francis, OBE, Director of Transparency International – Defence & Security, said:
“In recent years, Niger has become increasingly affected by the conflict and insecurity in neighbouring Mali, which has quickly spread across the Sahel. With Niger now a key member of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, contributing over a thousand troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali and receiving increasing amounts of military and technical assistance from foreign donors, the country is on the frontline of the regional struggle against extremist groups.
“Given the empirical link between corruption and conflict and the corrosive effect of corruption on defence capabilities, it is essential for Niger to accelerate its efforts to improve the governance of the defence sector and strengthen civilian democratic oversight of the defence apparatus. We urge the Nigerien government to improve the access to defence information of legislative and oversight bodies and take steps towards improving transparency and external oversight in procurement processes. Building the integrity and effectiveness of Niger’s defence sector will enhance its ability to respond to multiplying regional security threats and bolster public trust in defence and security institutions.
“With high corruption risks across national defence sectors in West Africa, tools like our Government Defence Integrity Index are more important than ever. By highlighting areas where safeguards against corruption are weak or non-existent, campaigners on the ground and reform minded military leaders and politicians can use these results to push for real change. Taking action to improve transparency and closing the loopholes which allow corruption to thrive is a critical step in building effective and accountable defence and security forces.”
These findings come against a backdrop of rising insecurity in Niger and the Sahel more broadly. Attacks by extremist groups against civilians and Nigerien defence and security forces are rising, while the protracted conflicts in Mali and Libya are increasingly spilling across the border into Niger. Mounting instability in Burkina Faso, Northern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region are also threatening to seriously impact the security of populations along Niger’s southern border and are turning the landlocked nation into a critical base in the fight against violent extremism.
Despite recent promising government initiatives and reforms, attempts to improve defence governance in Niger are hindered by high levels of secrecy and defence exceptionalism, which severely limit oversight and control of defence institutions by parliament and audit mechanisms.
The capacity of the National Assembly to hold the government to account is hampered by a lack of technical expertise and limited access to information, whilst a general lack of engagement between the defence establishment and civil society further limits the scope of civilian democratic oversight.
Financial oversight is also curtailed by the lack of a detailed defence budget made available to the legislature. Even the parliamentary Defence and Security Commission is presented with only abbreviated information when it comes to spending on secret items and military intelligence, whilst audit mechanisms are limited in terms of capacity and access to information. This lack of oversight is mirrored in Niger’s defence procurement process, with many purchases excluded from normal public procurement procedures. Moreover, reports from the Inspector General, along with the military acquisition plan are strictly confidential, thereby hugely hindering external control.
Personnel management would be improved through a greater emphasis on addressing corruption, for instance through revamped Codes of Conduct and specific anti-corruption training which are currently lacking. Equally, the nomination and recruitment processes at higher levels are shrouded in secrecy, opening the door for nepotistic practices.
Finally, Niger’s defence sector scores very poorly in terms of operational risk, with its military doctrine lacking an appreciation of corruption as a strategic threat during deployments.
At a time of growing regional instability, Transparency International – Defence & Security urges the Nigerien government to consider heightening efforts to improve civilian democratic oversight of the defence sector and strengthening the integrity of the armed forces to better respond to the security threats with which it is faced.
Notes to editors:
The full, country-specific Government Defence Integrity Index (GDI) results for Niger and West Africa as a whole are available at https://ti-defence.org/gdi/
The GDI assesses the existence, effectiveness and enforcement of institutional and informal controls to manage the risk of corruption in defence and security institutions.
Our team of experts draws together evidence from a wide variety of sources and interviewees across 77 indicators to provide a detailed assessment of the integrity of national defence institutions, and awards a score for each country from A to F.
The GDI was previously known as the Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index (GI). The Index underwent a major update for the 2020 version, including changes to the methodology and scoring underpinning the project. This means overall country scores from this 2020 version cannot be accurately compared with country scores from previous iterations of the Index.
Subsequent GDI results will be released in 2020, covering Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America, G-20 countries, the Asia Pacific region, East and Southern Africa, and NATO+.
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