Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2006-05-31 Reporter: Sapa

African Corruption: Rich Nations 'Deeply Implicated'



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World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz on Wednesday congratulated African nations for launching a campaign against corruption but said rich countries have to cooperate to stamp out graft.

In a speech to businessmen in Seoul, South Korea, Wolfowitz said rich countries are deeply implicated in corruption in Africa.

"For every bribe taker, there is a bribe giver and very often that bribe giver comes from a rich country," he said, adding: "I think we all have the responsibility to crack down."

Wolfowitz said that until recently corruption was so rife in the energy sector in Africa the situation was considered hopeless, but in the past two years, more than a dozen African countries have endorsed or implemented a World Bank blueprint called the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

"Just two years ago, experts looked at Africa's oil and gas sector and threw up their hands.

"They said corruption was so pervasive there that you couldn't possibly make progress in promoting transparency and accountability in big energy contracts.

"The situation isn't perfect, but that's an excellent start in such a short time," Wolfowitz said.

The World Bank initiative is aimed at committing governments to transparency on oil revenues so that people would know where the money is going, he said.

"And hopefully, I guess I have to say hopefully, because we are long way from the finish line, hopefully, Nigeria won't end up repeating its experience of earlier years when most of that oil money ended up in Swiss bank accounts."

Nigeria is leading the charge against corruption, he said, noting that President Olusegun Obasanjo has put high officials in jail for graft.

In South Africa, President Thabo Mbeki sacked deputy president Jacob Zuma last year after a court found there was a "generally corrupt" relationship between him and his financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who is now serving a 15-year jail sentence.

The charges related to a multibillion-dollar government arms deal. Zuma allegedly arranged a bribe to protect a local subsidiary of French arms company Thales from a state investigation into alleged irregularities.

"As far as I know, the European company that gave the bribe has still not been punished anyway at all. That's wrong," Wolfowitz said.

Wolfowitz arrived in Seoul on Tuesday and met South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. He was to leave later on Wednesday for Hamburg, Germany, to attend a World Bank forum.

With acknowledgement to Sapa-AFP and Mail & Guardian.