A young Sudanese journalist who is consistently critical of the Sudanese government sent me a news item about corruption in the Sudan
. The main "evidence" which he quoted was Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index which gives the Sudan a low mark. The same Index came up during a Sudan Briefing at the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce on 1 March. If such a grave perception is not discussed openly and frankly and challenged if necessary, the misleading outcome could harm our country's efforts to fully benefit from expected and much needed international investments, in the wake of eased US sanctions.
I start by admitting that there is corruption in the Sudan. During my visit last month I read in newspapers about several cases of corruption which were exposed by financial auditors and police investigators .The newspaper coverage of corruption demonstrates that there are mechanisms in place for tackling corruption and laws for penalizing those found guilty. Calls for better investigations or heavier penalties are legitimate and understandable; but they acquire credibility if linked to the acknowledgement that corruption is the exception and that those engaged in it get punished. The presence at the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce event of highly successful business personalities whose reputation is stainless demonstrates that it is possible to reach the top without corruption. Dr Hania M. Fadl OBE (founder and CEO of the non-profit Khartoum Breast Care Centre and founding member of the US-Sudan Business Council) was there, Ahmed Abdel Latif (CTC Group President)made an impressive presentation, Wael Elnifeidi was also present as was Hassan Abdelhalim and the venerable veteran of Sudanese business and philanthropy Anis Haggar. By a surprising coincidence The Arab-British Chamber of Commerce Briefing took place one day after President Trump's speech at Congress in which he said:"We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a five year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials and a lifetime ban on becoming a lobbyist for a foreign government". Lobbying is legalised corruption and President Trump, to his credit as an "outsider", sees that. The flaw in Transparency International's Index is that it closes an eye to lobbying as a factor when it makes its assessment and ranking. If lobbying is used as one of the factors that determine the degree of corruption, the order of merit on the Index would be different. Transparency International also closes an eye to the international context, and does not do that out of ignorance as is revealed by its Managing Director's response to comments made by the former British Prime Minister ,David Cameron:" We should not forget that by providing a safe haven for corrupt assets, the UK and its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are a big part of the world's corruption problem." Lobbying is underreported corruption; but cynics (like Martin Williams, author of Parliament Ltd, exaggerate with the claim that" it corrupts democracy to its core") To be fair to Transparency International, it does say openly:"Let's get straight to the point. No country gets close to a perfect score in the Corruption Perception Index 2016" and points out to the connection between inequality and corruption; but the fact remains that a perception of bias has led the Brazilian Branch to sever links with the HQ. The Economist has called on TI to "ditch “its score card or at least publish it in a less misleading form. Writing for Foreign Affairs, Alex Cobham quoted the statement in which the person who came up with the Index idea has "ditched" it! Professor Johan Graf Lambsdorff wrote: "In 2009,I invented the Corruption Index and have orchestrated it ever since, putting TI on the spotlight of international attention. In August 2009,I have informed Cobus de Swardt, Managing Director of TI ,that I am no longer available for doing the Corruption Perception Index". That was not a fatal KO for the index. It is still being published and is seen as indisputable "evidence" of corruption by young and inexperienced Sudanese journalists who are too eager to score points against their government.