Thursday, March 01, 2007

On Wednesday night I went to see Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speak at SAIS. She is a former minister of Nigeria, and she was speaking on fighting corruption in Nigeria, which she was largely in charge of during her tenure as minister of foreign relations. I was glad to hear her push UNCAC, and to state that it was not just developing countries that exhibited corruption, although the audience was ignorant of the convention, and so I think it fell on deaf ears. She related that corruption was most endemic in Nigeria in public procurement and in the oil sector, and she dealt with both in her reforms there, including publish-what-you-pay schemes and cost schedules and certification for contracts with the government. Interestingly, she called lobbying a form of corruption, and decried the high cost of political campaigns in United States, which she said tarnished the image of American democracy. Upon asking her whether parliamentarians had come to her aid in passing and implementing her reforms, she said that it was difficult to find allies among them. The parliamentarians, she said, felt threatened by the reforms she was putting in place. Pretty sad.

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