Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala served as Finance Minister during the administrations of Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.
However, it was during the Jonathan spell that she was handed supreme powers—a carte blanche of some sort; with the portfolio of coordinating minister of the economy bestowed on her.
The Jonathan administration has been accused of wanton corruption by the succeeding government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Okonjo-Iweala was part of a panel discussion on the theme “Fighting corruption’’ at the World Bank/IMF headquarters in Washington DC, United States, last weekend.
Here are five ways Okonjo-Iweala suggests Nigeria and other countries battling corruption, can deal with endemic graft:
1. Run a cashless economy
Okonjo-Iweala says cash based economies are a lot more prone to corruption.
“If you have a financial management system that is still cash-based, you open the door for people to manipulate or be able to intrude into the system”, she says.
“If you can introduce more technology, if you can have systems and processes that guide government, if you can make e-procurement… the more you can fight corruption”.
2. Weak institutions mean more corrupt activities
Until institutions are made corruption proof and stronger, the malaise will continue to plague the developing world, says Okonjo-Iweala.
“In terms of the fight against corruption, incentives and institutions matter. My experience has been that people in one place are no more corrupt than the other; but if the institutions are not there or they are very weak, then the incentive to be corrupt is stronger”, Okonjo-Iweala says.
3. Rule of law will help anti-graft war
According to Okonjo-Iweala, “Have the institutions of the rule of law alongside…I think the more you will be able to fight corruption. We really need a systematic plan about fighting corruption”.
4. Private sector has to clean up its act
Okonjo-Iweala figures that the private sector has to be a part of the solution because it is a part of the problem.
“Now, coming to the private sector; yes, the private sector is part of the problem; there is no doubt about it.
“The World Economic Forum estimated that bribery adds about 10 per cent to the cost of doing business. So, they are undoubtedly part of it. But I also want to say that the private sector is beginning to see that they are part of the solution, and that the world has changed.
“There are responsible private sector people and organisations that want to be part of the solution and part of that change.”
5. Putting in place workable systems take time, but keep at it
Okonjo-Iweala suggests that countries determined to fight corruption should be patient through the hurdles.
“The bid stories about scandals about corruption are really what people want to read.
“But actually, fighting corruption and putting those systems in place are very ‘unsexy’; it takes time. It took us 10 years to try and build the Government Integrated Financial Management System in Nigeria, to get way from cash-based transactions. When you say the Government Integrated Financial Management System, it is so boring; nobody wants to hear. But that is what needs to be done. So, that is my one mantra. I think it is all about strengthening institutions”.