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Togo: how to effectively fight against the scourge of corruption?

Does the Togolese government really have an interest in putting in place effective policies to fight corruption? This is the question asked by Yawovi Agbonkou, doctoral student in Political and Ethical Philosophy at the Sorbonne.

“Corruption is a national sport in Togo”. This was the disillusioned observation of one of the participants of the citizen round table of December 3, 2020 in Lomé. Organized by Togolese civil society organizations, it brought together journalists, businessmen, lawyers and a representative of the High Authority for the Prevention and Fight against Corruption and Similar Offenses (HAPLUCIA).

All were keen to answer a question, or rather the challenge of the “Fight against corruption in Togo”. Original and diverse, this exchange made it possible both to establish a diagnosis and to open avenues of action without hiding any difficulties.

Political ambiguity

Legally, the Togolese state has often adopted texts that aim to stem the phenomenon of corruption. Moreover, article 46 of the Togolese constitution declares:

“Public goods are inviolable. Any person or public official must respect and protect them. Any act […] of embezzlement of public property, corruption or dilapidation is punished under the conditions provided for by law. "

The penalties incurred, defined by the Penal Code art. 208, range from one to five years imprisonment, depending on the seriousness of the act.

The Togolese state excels in producing texts, but the real problem lies in their application. Because the guarantors of the law very often embody the opposite. A recent report on corruption in Togo commissioned by HAPLUCIA, reveals that "corruption involves on the one hand the initiators made up of the rich (77,2%), powerful men from all sectors (57,2%)" and on the other "the components of society which yield the most to corruption are the agents of justice (70%) and the financiers or accountants (43,3%) ”. Among the major corruption cases in which the Togolese state is allegedly involved, we can cite the concession of the Autonomous Port of Lomé, which would have been granted to the Bolloré group in return for advice from the Havas subsidiary to President Faure Gnassingbé during his campaign for his re-election for a second term in 2010, as well as the affair of petrolgate (large sums from the sale of petroleum products have reportedly been misappropriated by leading politicians).

Clearly, the political power in place itself appears to be affected by corruption. Therefore, does it really have an interest in putting in place effective policies to combat this phenomenon?

As a result of this question, the creation of HAPLUCIA, umpteenth public body to deal with these cases, seems to be at best a trompe-l'oeil in response to requests from international actors, aiming to collect grants which will then be redistributed among friends; at worst, a means of monitoring a little more the social actors who would like to change things. In addition, the example of two old corruption cases handed over to the Attorney General by HAPLUCIA since November 2019, without follow-up, and the absence of any coercive capacity delegated to this body, raise the question of its real effectiveness and of the political will underlying its construction.

What about civil society?

The idea according to which corruption is a “national sport” in Togo evokes two dimensions of corruption: an inter-individual dimension and an institutional dimension.

Institutional corruption manifests itself in the abuse of power, embezzlement, corruption of elites, public officials, justice officials, etc.

Interindividual corruption, for its part, manifests itself in different sectors of social life: an agent who allows you to avoid waiting in a public service for a bribe or who collects it from road users instead of them. impose a fine for an offense (active bribery). But it is also at work when the user systematically gives money to the agent to avoid reprimands or a fine (passive corruption).

In almost all socioeconomic activities, social and family relations, etc. corruption remains fairly present, even in religious executives where moral values ​​are supposed to come first.

In the health sector, the many examples reported on the Sylvanus Olympio University Hospital, considered as a "death bed", on other hospitals in the country, and also in the private sector are revealing. The public-private partnership or the delegation of the role of the State to private health structures which increase the prices of services by marketing health and social welfare pose a serious problem.

In education, we can cite the systemic absenteeism of teachers, and paid repetition courses organized in public and private schools, from CP to XNUMXth grade, to supplement the insufficient salaries of teachers and also to raise the level of students. Students may even be given good grades for sexual favors, financial favors, or other forms of recognition from parents.

In Togolese sport, the case of embezzlement of African Nations Cup 2013 and 2017 is one example among others of management entrusted to often unsuitable actors.

It is undeniable that corruption is a scourge which damages the socio-economic structures of Togolese society and disturbs its social cohesion. Its connection with the issue of inequalities is very clear. Not even to mention the elections, which constitute a vast network of corruption. Because, in the words of a Togolese entrepreneur: “How do you expect people who steal every day not to steal the most important day of their life, election day? "

Corruption and inequalities in Togo

The link between corruption and inequality is clearly verified in Togo. According to the aforementioned report (and controversial), Togolese citizens believe that the main causes of corruption in Togo are poverty (77%) followed by low wages or income (56,1%). The guaranteed minimum wage (SMIG) has been 35 CFA francs (approximately 000 euros), since January 53, and the majority of Togolese live from day to day. Likewise, the income gap between the richest and the majority of the population is glaring, leading some residents to find other sources of income through corruption. However, the accumulation of these cases leads to more inequalities. In Togo, nepotism, influence peddling, bribes… are ordinary. Most citizens find themselves impoverished by these additional expenses, while providers get richer.

The consequences are numerous: the destruction of public services, the degradation of socio-educational and health structures, the dilapidated state of infrastructure… Even social relations suffer, especially in terms of reception and care. With the centrality of financial recognition which makes some dependents, and the dilapidated infrastructure, staff are disengaged and forget essential values ​​of human dignity. Public administrations are overburdened by the concentration of activities in places where, to be served, one must either use the simplest method of corruption or spend hours or even days there.

What prospects?

Togo is plagued by corruption. In the world ranking established by Transparency International, the country is positioned at the 134e position on 180, with a score of 29 points. The average score is 43/100 in the world and 32/100 in sub-Saharan Africa. To improve, the population and the government must take concrete action.

At the level of the population, there needs to be awareness of the impact of corruption on the quality of public services through citizen education, and exemplary actions, namely appropriate awareness-raising and training in citizen control conducted by organizations. of civil society, which must be carried out in particular through surprise visits to public services. These must be done by the local populations, because they would be the most able to carry them out: this is local control. Such actions must be supported by external audits, the results of which must be communicated to the populations (cf. Esther Duflo, The policy of autonomy). Citizen control should not be limited to criticism and denunciation. It should also serve to support and promote good actions and practices, to encourage and serve as an example.

As for the government, it must:

The effective fight against corruption is an essential element for development. This effort was the key to Singapore's development policy installed by Lee Kuan Yew, a global benchmark. But all this is only possible with real political will.

Yawovi Agbonkou, PhD student in Political Philosophy and Ethics, Sorbonne University

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

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