In doing so, it has committed to implementing a legal structure that will require public officials to declare their assets, develop a policy on access to public finance information, and abide by a deontological code. Relatively new concepts for Senegal’s governing bodies, the adoption of these laws will not be without their challenges. Under the status quo, the line between sociological and cultural habits and ethical misconduct are often blurred, with civil servants sometimes unaware that their practices constitute corruption.
During a recent workshop hosted by the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), “there were heated debates about gifts and the cultural perception of gift giving. In certain regions of Senegal, if a newly appointed public official refuses to accept a welcome gift such as a goat for example, it would be perceived as impolite rather than ethical behavior,” says Eric Brintet, World Bank specialist in charge of financial management and governance in Dakar.
The World Bank is actively accompanying Senegal on the road to increased transparency, notably through the provision of budget support, technical assistance, and the development of new information systems. Prior to administering budget support, the World Bank ensures that the Senegalese government has taken concrete action towards improving governance, applying gentle pressure that has resulted in a more timely publication of the annual report from the National Audit Office and the enforcement of the asset declaration law.
Furthermore, the World Bank delivers substantial technical assistance to improve public financial management and transparency in the public sector as a whole. A $45 million project launched in 2011, is building capacity for a more streamlined and transparent public financial management that will ensure the preparation and approval of the yearly budget, execute expenditures, and conduct financial reporting and audits.
Thanks to additional financing, this Public Financial Management Strengthening Technical Assistance Project will also work to implement a computerized financial management system that will automatize most of the expenditure processing currently done on paper. This will allow for more reliable and real-time financial reporting, benefitting both authorities and citizens alike.
“This will not resolve all the issues concerning corruption in Senegal, however, these built-in regulations will make corruption much more difficult or visible, creating a strong deterrent for those looking to cheat the system,” explains Eric Brintet.
Promulgated in March 2014, the asset declaration law was complemented in November by a decree that defines more precisely those who are subject to it and the practical aspects of the declaration process. In an effort to move things forward, the President of the Senegal Macky Sall required ministers declare their assets before the end of November 2014. Some ministers met the deadline while others have been in contact with the OFNAC in order to receive more information on how to perform the declaration.
The recent implementation of the assets declaration law has led to some difficulties, such as the obtainment of proof of ownership for real estate, a document that can be difficult to obtain in a timely manner. However these challenges are being addressed and are soon to be overcome.
“Fraud and corruption are first and foremost a question of behavior. Working to change these types of behavior is not only the duty of the OFNAC, but also the duty of each Senegalese citizen,” affirms Nafy Ngom Keita, president of the OFNAC.