Corruption at school

The national education system is generally the largest branch of the public sector in Africa, often representing over 20% of the government’s public spending. As a fundamental human right, education is a driver for individual, social and economic development. It is seen as the key to a better future and gives citizens the necessary tools to meet their own needs, live decently and contribute to society.

Corruption in the education system has a long-term negative impact on all members of society, in particular the most vulnerable. The poor and marginalised fringes of the population are unable to bear the cost of corruption and are therefore deprived of the opportunities represented by universal access to high-quality education.

Corruption in the education sector is a major development issue in Africa: According to Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer, an average of 33% of the citizens who had come into contact with the education system said that they had paid a bribe in the context of the education system. In Cameroon, this figure is as high as 36%.

Corruption at school manifests itself in what are essentially predatory behaviours, including requesting excessive or imaginary enrolment fees from poor parents, demanding bribes in exchange for a diploma or even just a school report, selling school equipment that is supposed to be free, sexual exploitation of schoolgirls in exchange for grades, and so on.

Corruption also exists in other forms in the education sector more broadly, including:

  • Corruption associated with assigning teachers to desirable posts, organised absenteeism and “ghost” teachers, a phenomenon that puts a strain on the education budget and is used to misappropriate funds.
  • Artificially inflated enrolment figures or “ghost schools” invented to attract public funding (based on fixed per-pupil subsidies)
  • Procurement processes for school books or defective equipment (for example, contracts whose value is artificially inflated in exchange for kickbacks)
  • Awarding a construction contract for a municipal school to a business run by the individual’s own family or friends, or in exchange for kickbacks
  • The diploma market: paying teachers to award good marks, buying copies of examination papers that have been awarded a pass, or simply purchasing fake diplomas

A report published by Transparency International in 2010, Africa Education Watch, has already identified and measured the prevalence of such practices in some African countries, including Niger and Madagascar. A specific report on Cameroon, published in 2012, revealed similar problems. The two stories that follow clearly illustrate the problems identified above.

Discover
their struggle

Corruption and land

Land is the primary means of subsistence for many men and women in Africa. It also carries considerable political, social and cultural significance, which is hard to value in market terms. Access to land and control of how it is used is fundamental for the majority of Africans. Since the economic and food crisis of 2008, the commercial importance of land has increased continuously, with a growing interest in investing in land and large-scale purchases of land. At the same time, increasing urbanisation is driving up the price of urban land. The non-economic value of land can easily be neglected or ignored in a context that focuses on its monetary value.

Although the legislative framework in many countries protects land ownership and local communities’ rights to property, corruption allows people with the necessary means to exert influence and manipulate purchasing procedures, the administrative authorities and the courts to seize land in both urban and rural areas. As a result, many poor and marginalised groups, particularly women, lose control of land they had previously occupied, sometimes for generations.

The governance of land ownership is thus significantly undermined by corruption. Even though many countries have a legal framework in place for the formal processes of land registration and ownership, according to the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer 34% of the people who had come into contact with a service responsible for land administration over the last 12 months said that they had paid a bribe to that service.

The two cases outlined here reflect the challenges and difficulties faced by the poorest people when powerful economic interests seize their land. As these stories show, it is not always easy for citizens to enforce their rights, even when they have a valid title deed and support from Transparency International.

Corruption and deforestation: a threat to mechanisms such as REDD+

Forests cover 31% of the surface of our planet and play a crucial role in absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, as well as having a direct impact on food security and people’s means of subsistence. We therefore have a significant interest in protecting our forests, which is what REDD+ – which aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation – seeks to do.

To date, it is estimated that deforestation and forest degradation are responsible for around 15% of global CO2 emissions. Corruption is almost always a significant factor in the illegal exploitation of forest areas and thus threatens initiatives such as REDD+. The majority of countries that are heavily forested and benefiting from REDD+ are also those where corruption is perceived to be highest; corruption is often endemic in the forestry sector in such countries.

Corruption in the forestry sector is evident at every stage of the supply chain and drives the emergence of unlawful practices, such as illegal exploitation of protected forest areas. The complicity of numerous public officials (including the forestry authorities, police and customs officers) is essential in allowing illegal activities to take place and continue without sanction. Bribes, for example, can make it possible for businesses or individuals to cut down and export species of timber that are protected by law, fell trees in protected areas or outside the areas permitted under the concession, and transport illegally logged timber to the markets.

Increased civil-society participation is essential to improve forestry governance systems and check that they are being implemented.

For more information on the integrity of REDD+, check out our online training module available to everyone: courses.transparency.org.

Niger


Combatting corruption in Niger

Corruption is a day-to-day reality for people in Niger. The necessity of paying bribes is only too evident when it comes to finding a job, getting hospital treatment or getting an education. This is reflected in the score of 35 points that Niger obtained on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2014, which ranks it level with Mexico or Moldova in terms of perceived corruption in the public sector.

The Association Nigérienne de Lutte Contre la Corruption (ANLC) has been working to combat corruption in the country’s economic and political life since its creation in 2001. Since 2010, it has been offering legal assistance to witnesses and victims of corruption through its Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC). The ANLC has received almost 800 complaints since the centre was created. Thanks to its “mobile ALACs” it can provide assistance to numerous isolated areas throughout the country; in four years, it has visited over 85% of Niger’s municipal authorities. Mobile ALACs not only help raise the population’s awareness of the problems of corruption and offer them the possibility of reporting specific cases, but have also led to the creation of hundreds of anti-corruption clubs. Today, the ANLC has set up anti-corruption clubs in all of the country’s 266 communes. The clubs consist of groups of citizens who act as ALAC intermediaries in their area. They inform and raise awareness amongst citizens, identify serious cases of corruption and forward them to the ALAC in Niamey. They also develop action plans to try to reduce corruption in their communities and assist victims and witnesses of corruption.

The cases outlined here reflect the main trends identified by the ANLC with regard to corruption in Niger: problems of fake diplomas, corruption at school, abuse of power by the administrative authorities and forces of law and order, and predatory financial behaviour by state officials.

The diploma market

The diploma market

Boubacar was sitting a national vocational qualification (BEP) in Accounting and had worked intensively to prepare for his exams. When he found out that he had failed, he asked to see his paper to find out where he had gone wrong. The examiner Boubacar approached refused and even threatened to call the police to make him leave, which set him thinking. Suspecting that his marks had been sold to another candidate, which sadly happens all too often in Niger, Boubacar turned to the Association Nigérienne de Lutte contre la Corruption (ANLC), the Transparency International chapter in Niger, for legal assistance. It’s not only qualifications that can be sold in Niger, but exam papers too!

Transparency International supported Boubacar’s actions and also wrote to the relevant Ministries on his behalf to explain the situation to them. As a result, Boubacar was able to get a copy of his transcript and have his results confirmed. Finally, he passed his exam and received his certificate of achievement from the Chief Examiner.

Racket by local police

Racket by local police

Aminou Dan Baba owns a sand mill at a gold-panning site in Tangouga, in the Tillabéry region, around 150 km from Niamey.

One day when he was away from the mill, some tax officials arrived to recover taxes that they said he owed, accompanied by officers from the Forces Nationales d’Intervention et de Sécurité (FNIS). Aminou’s two apprentices were there and were ordered to stop work until the situation had been sorted out.

When he returned, Aminou – who had all the necessary paperwork – asked his apprentices to go back to work and then waited until the officials came back, confident that he would be able to demonstrate that he had paid all the taxes he owed. But instead, they refused to listen to him, beat up his apprentices and took one of them away, forcing him to stay out in the sun for the whole day. The officials then forced Aminou to pay the taxes he had already paid all over again, without giving him any kind of receipt.

As nothing came of Aminou’s initial approach to the police, he turned to the Integrity Club in Torodi, a local branch of the Association Nigérienne de Lutte contre la Corruption. With their support he was able to secure his apprentice’s release and found that he too had been forced to hand over a significant sum of money. Aminou has not yet been able to recover the money he lost, but for the moment, and thanks to the actions of the ANLC, the racketeering has stopped.

A dedicated schoolgirl

A dedicated schoolgirl

Balkissa was born in Niamey, Niger on 13 June 1995. When she was 12 years old, her paternal uncle promised her as a wife to one of her cousins in Nigeria. The cousin had persuaded Balkissa’s uncle to do this by buying him a vehicle and sending him various gifts. In late 2012, the cousin sent the dowry and asked for a date to be set for the wedding. Try as she might to protest that she did not want to marry him, Balkissa’s cousin insisted, pointing out that her uncle had already given his approval.

In 2012, Balkissa contacted the Association Nigérienne de Lutte contre la Corruption (ANLC), which helped her to file a complaint against her uncle with the public prosecutor’s office. The uncle was summoned to appear before the judge and ordered to abandon any idea of the marriage, but two days after the summons, he tried again. The prosecutor then issued a warrant, which resulted in his being arrested and imprisoned. The ANLC put Balkissa in touch with the NGO SOS Femmes et Enfants victimes de violences (SOS Women and Children victims of violence), which runs an accommodation centre. Balkissa stayed there until the case had been settled. When he left the prison where he had been held, her uncle agreed to drop his plans for a forced marriage and Balkissa has been able to continue her studies. She is now in her penultimate year of secondary school.

This case illustrates one of the challenges faced by the ALACs: not all of the cases brought to their attention are examples of corruption in the strict sense of the word. However in the case of an imminent physical risk to an individual, or a serious breach of their fundamental rights, the ALACs can offer legal expertise (as in this case) or turn to sister organisations.

Combatting corruption in Cameroon

Corruption is common currency in Cameroon, to the point that numerous public services can only be secured by paying a “tchoko”, “cola” or “gombo” to a police officer, head teacher or public official. As people also say, ironically, you need to “do yourself a favour”.

In 2011, 54% of people in Cameroon said they had paid at least one bribe in the last year. Over two thirds of those who had come into contact with the police had paid a bribe. Again according to the Global Corruption Barometer, people in Cameroon believe that the majority of their institutions are corrupt and do not trust the police, public officials or politicians. Recurring political scandals and the slowness with which the courts respond – if they respond at all – have aggravated the situation.

Since 2004, a large number of senior public officials have been arrested on suspicion of corruption and some have been ordered to serve long prison sentences. A recent survey by Transparency International, however, shows that half the population views the government’s efforts to combat corruption as ineffective. Indeed, the majority of the ministries’ anti-corruption offices do not function and the National Anti-Corruption Commission, created in 2006, does not have the power to prosecute members of the government.

Cameroon was ranked 136th out of 174 countries in the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, meaning that its public sector is perceived as amongst the most corrupt in the world. In a country of 22 million inhabitants, where poverty levels remain very high and access to basic services is still limited, corruption makes the situation even worse for citizens, particularly the poorest and most marginalised.

Transparency International Cameroon was created in 2000 to tackle the scourge of corruption. The aim of the organisation is to promote transparency and good governance, alert people and make them aware of the dangers of corruption, and give citizens the means to respond to them. Its Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC), created in 2011, records complaints from citizens, helps them in their dealings with the courts, monitors trends in corruption and carries out investigations. The ALAC service provides guidance to victims and witnesses of corruption, as well as offering legal assistance to those in need. In three years, over 600 cases of corruption have been recorded by TI Cameroon.

The head teacher who didn’t want to give pupils their certificates

The head teacher who didn’t want to give pupils their certificates

Laurent is a father of five children, all of whom attend a state school in Kribi. One morning, he contacted the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) to get help with a case of abuse of power by the head teacher of the primary school where his children are pupils.

At the meeting at the end of the second term, the head teacher had refused to hand out reports to the parents of children who had not paid their subscriptions to the Parent-Teacher Association, which are not compulsory in Cameroon: a clear abuse of power in the eyes of the law.

Once it became aware of the abuse, Transparency International Cameroon made contact with the Focal Point of the Ministry responsible for the area, which sent the local primary education inspector to visit the head teacher the same day. The case was resolved successfully and by mid-day, Laurent received a phone call, inviting him to come and pick up his children’s reports from the central school. All parents at the school were in the same situation, so the actions taken by Laurent and Transparency International Cameroon helped all of them directly.

Thirty-one houses destroyed

Thirty-one houses destroyed

Since 1955, the planter-pioneer collective, represented by Narcisse, has occupied a plot of land of over six hectares in Douala. The value of the land has increased over many years as a result of house building, other developments and exploiting cultivated plantations. As the planter-pioneer collective has added value to the site, it should have received full title to the land in accordance with the order of 6 July 1974, which fixes land tenure.

An administrative malfunction, however, granted the same plot to an affluent person in the neighbouring area. As they had support within the local administrative and military authorities, they had the houses of almost 31 families demolished in February 2014 and began work on the plot, building homes to rent. This occurred in spite of the ongoing dispute between the new owner and the planter-pioneer collective, which is still undergoing investigation in the courts.

The families in the planter-pioneer collective felt that had been treated unjustly and turned to Transparency International Cameroon to help ensure their rights were respected. Several pieces of evidence to date suggest corrupt practices.

The case is ongoing and Transparency International Cameroon is working with the displaced families and the authorities to investigate what has happened and, if possible, to secure compensation for the families whose houses have been destroyed.

Madagascar

Madagascar suffers from a high level of corruption in the public sector, as reflected by its score of 28 out of 100 on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2014, which shows a higher perception of corruption in Madagascar than Mali or Mauritania. This is hardly surprising if you consider that one person in three has already been asked to pay a bribe in Madagascar and that 58% of the population questioned for the Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer believes that corruption has increased in the last two years.

People in Madagascar encounter corruption at every turn: to get a voting card, in school or university exams, during a court case, at a police check, or when a teacher paid by the state is not in the classroom. Corruption affects everyone, but as in many countries, it is young people, poor people and women who suffer most.

The sectors where corruption is most common, as reported by the clients of the Transparency International – Initiative Madagascar (TI-IM) ALAC, are justice, education and local administration, either at a municipal or Fokontany (sub-municipal) level. Health and land are also far from being free of corruption.

Given how little people trust the authorities, it is not surprising that Transparency International’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) has attracted popular support.

Transparency International – Initiative Madagascar was founded in 1997, with the aim of reducing corruption in the country. Today, TI-IM is the largest and most well-recognised anti-corruption organisation in Madagascar. It is supported by citizens and has developed working relationships with the state institutions responsible for combatting corruption, including the Independent Anti-Corruption Bureau (BIANCO).

Thanks to its awareness-raising activities, mainly through the ALAC, which has been operational since August 2010, TI-IM speaks to a large audience. In the first five months the TI-IM ALAC was open, over 380 people contacted it and in its four years of existence, over 4,000 have been in touch to seek legal advice and assistance in dealing with problems of corruption. The TI-IM ALAC operates throughout the island thanks to the “Mobile ALAC” and is happy to provide support to people in the country’s most remote areas.

The ALAC also organises discussions on the radio to tell citizens about their rights and raise awareness of the centre. Since 2014, TI-IM has been focusing on the strategic sectors of land, forestry resources and mines, in particular. The organisation is also working on an analysis of corruption in the forestry sector.

The administration’s empty coffers

The administration’s empty coffers

Rado, a husband and father of two children, lives in a small municipality in Madagascar’s capital. As he needed a residence certificate, he went to the Fokontany (the local authority responsible for basic administrative documents) to have one issued.

Certificates are not generally very expensive (around 200 to 500 ariary), however the President of the Fokontany – with the consent of his deputy and treasurer – asked him for 5,000 ariary, which is a very significant sum in Madagascar. They also refused to issue a receipt stating that the sum received would be paid to the town; when he insisted, he was threatened. The “cadeau-cadeau” (gift) is a very common practice in Madagascar, and involves asking for a sum of money that is higher than the price that should be paid for an administrative document.

Rado approached Transparency International – Initiative Madagascar, which helped him to construct his case before taking it to court. The court found in favour of Rado and, having identified several accounting irregularities in the management of the Fokontany, found its President and Vice President guilty of corruption, giving them a three-month suspended prison sentence. The treasurer was given the benefit of the doubt and spared from prison. All three, however, were dismissed from their jobs.

Since the case, stronger control mechanisms have been put in place and prices for administrative documents are posted in the building so that users can check them. The municipality is now playing a more significant role in notarised documents, thus counterbalancing the power of the Fokontany.

The resolution of the case also provided an opportunity to remind people of best practices, such as asking for a receipt when paying for an administrative document. Rado continues to work in his town to create a team of citizens to monitor management practices.

A family on the street

A family on the street

François and his wife Emilienne have lived in a town in eastern Madagascar since 1991. They and a number of other families occupy a plot of land, whose value they have increased by building a brick house (with more than one floor), growing crops and building a small, family-owned factory.

In 2003, they embarked on the standard process of “request for recognition” with the estates department of their town to acquire the land, since it still belonged to the State of Madagascar. At the same time, court proceedings were begun against the occupants of the land.

A lawyer was hired to make the case for the occupants. François and his family, however, received no information from him during the investigation and were therefore unable to attend the hearings.

When it delivered its judgment, the court ordered the destruction of the buildings on the part of the land they occupied. François received no official notification and was therefore unable to appeal the decision within the statutory time frame.

When it heard about the situation, Transparency International – Initiative Madagascar suspected a case of embezzlement and advised the family to file a complaint with the state-run Independent Anti-Corruption Bureau (BIANCO) to investigate the matter. Transparency International is helping the family to prepare their case and organise all the information they have gathered.

Transparency International hopes to see the cases through to completion and secure recognition of the rights of François and Emilienne’s family, as well as compensation for the loss of their house. To date, the 27 members of their family have not been re-housed.

When corruption razes forests to the ground

When corruption razes forests to the ground

The Water Committee in Anjozorobe municipality in Madagascar, which brings together villagers from the Fokontany in Miandrarivo, manages the natural spring that supplies the five neighbouring hamlets with drinking water. The spring is within a state-owned forest, and therefore has protected-area status: any logging or timber-processing is prohibited.

Nonetheless, trees have been felled without proper authorisation and charcoal has been produced. Deforestation and forest fires have caused the spring to dry up, creating problems for the inhabitants. Indeed, the lack of water has affected the villagers’ food, health and safety. The Committee sought to stop the illegal practices by contacting the forest ranger and the police. Sacks of charcoal were seized but later disappeared and managed to get through the economic check-point where inspections are usually carried out.

The Committee then turned to the Transparency International – Initiative Madagascar ALAC, which explained their rights to them and helped them to file a complaint with the Ministry of Forestry. The forest ranger was dismissed as a result. As he is refusing to leave, the case is ongoing and the ALAC is continuing its efforts.

About us

Transparency International (TI) is a global movement with one vision: a world in which governments, business, civil society and the daily lives of people are free of corruption. With over 100 chapters throughout the world and an international secretariat in Berlin, we are leading the fight against corruption to make that vision a reality.

In 2010, Transparency International launched a series of projects in Africa to create Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALACs) to give citizens the opportunity to report acts of corruption, as either victims or witnesses, and to pursue their complaints through the legal channels available. By offering them legal advice and assistance, Transparency International supports citizens trying to fight corruption at its source and then uses this as a basis to formulate tangible recommendations to improve governance.

Four years later, 13 Transparency International chapters in Africa are working hand-in-hand with citizens to help them get involved in fighting corruption. Among them are the TI chapters in Cameroon, Madagascar and Niger, which have opened their own legal advice centres with funding from the European Commission and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. Since then, their operations have grown steadily and they are helping thousands of citizens facing corruption, who have decided to stand up to it.

This documentary is dedicated to their work and to the citizens who, with or without the help of Transparency International, have spoken out against corruption and become champions of integrity.

Why donate?

Corruption is one of the biggest challenges of our time: from the financial crisis destroying years of growth, to nations rich in natural resources stuck in poverty – the consequences of corruption affect all of us, wherever we live. Corruption fuels inequality, holds back economic development, and hurts the most vulnerable in society.

With your donation, Transparency International Chapters in Cameroon, Madagascar and Niger will be able to fight back against corruption and assist those citizens who are saying ‘enough is enough’.

Your money will be used to allow lawyers to travel to rural communities, to finance judicial action on the behalf of the poorest citizens and empower corruption fighters like those you have seen in action in this documentary.

Contacts

Transparency International

Alt Moabit 96
10559 Berlin - Germany

Telephone: +49 30 3438 20 795
Fax: +49 30 3470 3912

Contact person:
M. Brice Böhmer,
Programme Manager,
Africa Department

Transparency International Cameroon

Nouvelle Route Bastos, rue 1.839
PO Box 4562
Yaoundé - Cameroon

Telephone: +237 2220 60 22

Contact person:
Mme Line Ateba,
Responsable du département juridique

Transparency International - Initiative Madagascar

Lot II M 98 B (2e étage) - Antsakaviro
101 Antananarivo
Madagascar

Telephone: (+261) 20 22 65357

Personnes de contact:
Landy Rakotondrasoa, Legal Adviser
Florent Andriamahavonjy, Executive Director

Association Nigérienne de Lutte contre la Corruption

Rue du Grand Hôtel NB 55, N°207
(Face RAZEL)
BP 10423
Niamey - Niger

Telephone: +227 20 74 10 90

Contact person:
Amadou Hassane Diallo,
ALAC Coordinator

Financial partners

This publication (including website and videos) has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union and France’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Development. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Transparency International and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of those two partners.


The initial phase of the ALAC project in Niger, Cameroun and Madagascar was supported by the European Union (from 2010 to 2013), as well as by France’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Development (2011 to 2014).



Filming and production by Camara Boreal