Transcript: U.S. Government’s efforts to combat corruption in Africa.

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OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to the U.S. Anti-Corruption Efforts in Africa conference call. All participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will conduct a question and answer session. If you should require any assistance, please press * then 0. As a reminder, today’s call is being recorded and your hosting speaker, Brian Neubert. Please go ahead, sir.
MODERATOR: Thank you everyone for your patience and good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s African Regional Media Hub. I want to welcome our participants who have dialed in from across the continent and media gathered at a number of our embassies in Africa. Today we are joined by Robert Leventhal, Deputy Director and Kellen McClure, Anti-Corruption Advisor in the Office of Anti-Crime Programs in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the Department of State.
Mr. Leventhal and Mr. McClure will discuss the Department of State’s Anti-Corruption policies and initiatives, including the December 4-6 Global Forum on Asset Recovery and its anti-corruption programming in Africa. Mr. Leventhal and Mr. McClure are speaking to us from Washington D.C. We will begin with remarks from Mr. Leventhal and then we will open it up for your questions. For those of you listening to the call in English, you can press *1 to join the question queue. If you are on your speaker phone, you may have to pick up the handset.
For those listening in French and Portuguese, we have received some of your questions in advance and you may continue to submit questions in English via e-mail to afmediahub@state.gov. If you’d like to join the conversation on Twitter, please use the hashtag #AntiCorruptPress and follow us on @africamediahub and @StateINL.
Today’s call is on the record and should last approximately 45 minutes. With that, Mr. Leventhal, to you for opening remarks. Thank you, sir.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR ROBERT LEVENTHAL: Thank you very much from Washington D.C. Good afternoon, bom dia, bonjour. We really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you all this afternoon. The role of journalists in a strong democratic society is critical. And as we all know, journalism, independent media plays an important role in anti-corruption as well.
Today falls between two major anti-corruption milestones. Yesterday the inaugural Global Forum on Asset Recovery came to a successful conclusion here in Washington D.C. and as I think all of you know, Saturday is International Anti-Corruption Day. Every year governments and citizens around the globe use December 9th to highlight the importance of combatting corruption, underscore their progress and identify remaining challenges. So, we thought it was a good time to offer this outreach opportunity to you all.
The Global Forum or GFAR was co-hosted by our country and the UK. The objective of the forum was straightforward; make asset recovery more effective. And the format was based on the experience we’ve had with similar forums supported by the United States and other countries over the years to benefit both the countries in the Middle East and North Africa and Ukraine. So, the meetings here in Washington brought together investigators and prosecutors from around the world who are responsible for asset recovery so that they could meet and discuss, face-to-face, their ongoing cases, establish personal working relationships and understand better, each other’s laws and procedures so that we would see even stronger cooperation going forward and more effective asset recovery.
Now, this Global Forum on Asset Recovery focused on cases from four countries where increased international cooperation on asset recovery could make a significant impact. So, the focus was on Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Ukraine. We’re very excited here in Washington, a bit tired, but we are happy that the GFAR more than achieved its objectives. The meetings saw over 75 bilateral meetings between law enforcement and prosecutors from 26 jurisdictions. In other words, there were more than 75 side meetings where law enforcement or prosecutors from one country would meet with law enforcement and prosecutors from another country to talk face-to-face and move the cases forward.
And in some cases, we saw progress right away. In others, we won’t know the long-term impact for months or even years. Its important to remember that asset recovery, even when there’s strong political will on both sides, is complicated and can be time-consuming. But we’re confident that events like GFAR are immensely helpful to the ultimate recovery of stolen assets that are stashed abroad by corrupt officials. Co-hosting by the U.S. and the United Kingdom, participation by a wide range of financial center countries and the hard preparation and diligence by the four focus countries, shows a strong will to make asset recovery work.
Now, I raise GFAR, the Global Forum on Asset Recovery, in part because it’s one important example of the leadership role that the United States plays in combatting corruption internationally. The U.S. has long recognized that the negative impact of corruption affects all aspects of society and touches the lives of all citizens. And over the years, we’ve learned that the impact of corruption extends far beyond the borders of the country in which it takes place. Kleptocracy, or high-level corruption, breeds instability by driving a wedge between government and the people. It turns institutions meant to serve the people into tools for exploiting them and this can leave many feeling disempowered and convinced that the system is rigged. And this can open the door for transnational organized crime and extremist groups to exploit this frustration for their own purposes.
The U.S. continues to support global anti-corruption efforts. We strive to be a leader in the fight against that both at home in the U.S. and abroad. We strongly support the UN Convention Against Corruption and other similar treaties. Our Department of Justice, which is our national prosecutorial body, has repatriated or is repatriating over $150 million in proceeds of corruption to requesting countries. And has frozen $3.5 billion in assets linked to foreign corruption. And since fiscal year 2016, the State Department and our U.S. Agency for International Development have dedicated more than $115 million each year to a wide range of foreign assistance efforts to build other countries’ capacity to counter corruption. Our Anti-Corruption Foreign Assistance Programs include capacity-building for governments to create stronger laws and more effective institutions to investigate, prosecute and secure convictions and to put in place measures to prevent corruption, foster oversight and promote government integrity and transparency.
And of course, as important as it is to work with governments, we also support the important role that civil society, including the media, and the private sector play. Preventing and combating corruption in Africa is an important part of our efforts to address anti-corruption abroad. As you’re all aware, pandemic corruption is still a huge challenge faced by citizens across the region. According to a 2015 Transparency International Afrobarometer Survey, for example, 22 percent of people that came into contact with the public service in the previous six months in Sub-Saharan African had paid a bribe. So, for this reason, the Department runs several programs across the region to build justice sector capacity to investigate and prosecute corrupt officials.
We also support the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative or STAR and something called the Global Focal Points Network which help provide support to countries, building the capacity to investigate financial crimes and seek international cooperation on asset recovery. In East and West Africa, programs raise awareness of the role of corruption in violent extremism and support investigative journalism. And we also work to implement reforms in line with the UN Convention Against Corruption.
Finally, another key component of our program includes promoting transparency and accountability and support for civil society to advocate against corruption. In Liberia, just to give one example, we’re working with the government to establish a mechanism for citizens to report corruption by Security Agency personnel. This will include procedures to inform citizens about the resolution and disposition of complaints. We recognize that if we want to support strong, democratic governance across the continent, we need to start by building confidence of citizens in their government. Our ongoing activities are the first step to achieving this goal; promoting integrity, transparency and accountability needs to be the cornerstone of these efforts.
So, with that, thank you and we’re happy to take your questions. We’re looking forward to the discussion.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Leventhal for that very informative introduction. It addressed a number of issues that we’ve seen and questions that we received in advance. And we’ll very much start a great discussion.
For our participants, we will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call. If you’re asking a question please state your name and affiliation. We have many callers so if you could limit yourself to one question for today related to the December 4-6 Global Forum on Asset Recovery as well as the Department of State’s, the U.S. Government’s Anti-Corruption Policies as Mr. Leventhal was just discussing.
Let me just check the queue. We have a number of questions in advance from Nigeria. Before I go to one of our listening parties, Mr. Leventhal, let me ask you to elaborate a little more on Nigeria. We did have, of course, as a focus county, a number of questions in advance. If you could elaborate a bit on some recent support to Nigeria’s drug law enforcement agency efforts to build institutions in countries like Nigeria. And if you could also speak a bit more, you mentioned it’s a very complicated process when it comes to repatriation of stolen assets. What is the sort of timeline and how fast can that process be expected to be completed?
DEPUTY DIRECTOR ROBERT LEVENTHAL: Okay, great, thank you very much. Let me start — I’ll go in order of the questions that you posed. We have a number of streams of assistance and cooperation to the criminal justice operators and policymakers in Nigeria. It’s a longstanding partnership and one we’re really pleased with. There’s been great cooperation. With respect to the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, we are in fact providing training and support to the NDLEA, particularly in the context of something called the Joint Border Task Force, or JBTF at the international airport in Lagos. The JBTF is composed of Nigerian law enforcement officers, including the NDLEA. And the program trains officers to intercept and investigate multiple transnational crimes that can be facilitated by vulnerabilities and individuals at airports. That may include drug trafficking, human trafficking, wildlife trafficking and other financial and transnational crimes.
This kind of capacity at airports, at other points of entry, we found both in the United States and in our partnerships around the world, is a key measure to combatting all kinds of illicit trafficking. So we’re pleased to be engaged in that effort in Nigeria as well as other places around the world.
The second part of the question looked more at the focus of our recent Global Forum on Asset Recovery. So, in terms of the process, let me start by saying asset recovery is a priority for the United States. I mentioned some of the figures. We actually have a dedicated team, a specific team tasked to the issue within the Department of Justice. It’s called the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. So this is the only thing they work on is cooperation with other countries internationally to try to help them to train to seize, to confiscate and to return assets. Those prosecutors and investigators who work with them will go to a requesting country, they will meet face-to-face with the officials there. They will assist in investigations. One thing that we always encourage is face-to-face, what we call ‘informal cooperation’ providing information about each other’s laws and procedures, trying to do as much of the work as possible before the mutual legal assistance phase, which is a more formal phase. And we find that’s the police-to-police contact, prosecutor-to-prosecutor contact, even financial-intelligence-unit-to-financial-intelligence-unit contact can be extremely helpful. And we can provide all kinds of assistance through those informal channels.
And there are a few different ways we can proceed. We can enforce a conviction with confiscation from another country here in the United States upon request. We can enforce an order of confiscation from another country upon request. And we can initiate our own investigations and prosecutions here with the aim of providing the recovered assets back to the requesting country.
Now, I said that this process can be time-consuming and complex. And here’s why: even when there’s strong political will and diligence by the requesting country, the victim country, and even where there’s strong political will and diligence by the requested country — for example, the United States where this is a strong policy for us — the movement of money across borders, the use of shell companies, the clever schemes put in place sometimes over years by corrupt officials and their enablers, takes time to unravel. And then unraveling them may not involve totally the two jurisdictions, the victims’ jurisdiction and a country like the United States. Money can move around from country-to-country through shell corporation after shell corporation and so it takes time and a lot of work, a lot of painstaking work, to unravel. And then the case is moved through our judicial system. We’re of course a rule of law country, the requesting countries typically have their own legal procedures to follow.
There may be appeals by those who either in good faith feel that they have a claim to the assets or perhaps in some instances, trying to slow down the process and try to create obstacles. So, again, this is an area that takes time but the payoffs can be supremely important. As we said, we’ve repatriated about $150 million. To date, we’ve got $3.5 billion in the pipeline. At the Global Forum on Asset Recovery just a couple days ago, Switzerland signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nigeria to return $321 million in stolen assets. So the cases can take a long time but they are having more and more success.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Leventhal.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR ROBERT LEVENTHAL: Yes, and my colleague Kellen McClure will add.
MR. KELLEN MCCLURE: Yes and if I could just jump in, this is Kellen McClure, the Anti-Corruption Advisor on the Office of Anti-Crime Programs. As Rob mentioned, the Swiss and Nigeria had the opportunity to sign this Memorandum of Understanding on the return of this money at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery. It took place during the opening ceremony, which I believe is available still to watch on the GFAR website so I would encourage everyone to watch the opening ceremony.
But one of the things that was abundantly clear through the conversations with our Nigerian colleagues and our Swiss colleagues and our World Bank colleagues is, as Rob said, this does take time but there are certain lessons learned over this process. And some of these lessons learned are these discussions need to start as early as possible. It’s really incumbent upon the countries to build trust in this partnership between them so that this dialogue can take place.
And it’s always helpful to involve others in the process where possible and where appropriate, including civil society. And what we actually were able to do was to take some of these lessons learned and to develop notional principles on transparency in the transfer and disposition of these assets. And all of the focus countries of GFAR and the co-hosts of GFAR were able to agree to about nine principles when it comes to the return and disposition. These principles will be annexed to the final GFAR communique which is going to be available again, on the GFAR website. And again, would encourage everyone to look at these principles to kind of see what the lessons learned that through all of these discussions and over the many years of hard work, what we’ve kind of learned when it comes to the return.
So I would encourage everyone to look at the GFAR communique. And again, these principles on the disposition and return of recovered assets.
MODERATOR: Thank you, both. And the Media Hub will, of course, help share this information as well with participants and with our audience. Let me turn now, we have a number of listening parties at U.S. Embassies across Africa. We’re going to turn to Kenya, to U.S. Embassy, Nairobi. Please open the line.
QUESTION: You mentioned a number of focus countries. What successes have there been in those jurisdictions that we can borrow from here in Kenya?
MODERATOR: Could you — sorry to introduce — I should remind our questioners, if you could give us your name and your outlet as well, thanks.
QUESTION: I thought I did. It’s Olive [Burrows] from Capital FM.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR ROBERT LEVENTHAL: Sure, so, in terms of successes, as I mentioned through some hard work between Nigeria and Switzerland, the significant return of assets where the MOU was signed at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery itself. Without going into details, because there are law enforcement matters, again, a large number of meetings over cases were held, in each case, to set the foundation for the next step; whether that might be delivery of mutual legal assistance requests, execution of pending requests, exchange of information and other steps. Because, as I mentioned, each of these cases has multiple steps.
We also heard about enhanced inter-ministerial coordination in many countries. That is, as my colleague Kellen was mentioning, lessons learned. That’s one of the lessons learned, that asset recovery requires the efforts of investigators, prosecutors, of central authorities who are the officials who handle international legal cooperation, of the judiciary, of financial intelligence units. And so there were good signs that focus countries either have in place or are strengthening inter-ministerial cooperation. And in some cases, setting up task forces or bodies whose mandates is to coordinate asset recovery efforts and serve as a point of contact with other countries.
We also heard about new institutions in Ukraine, something called the National Anti-Corruption Bureau or NABU was present and spoke about some of the successes they are having. And Ukraine is doing some significant forfeiture actions domestically as I think Nigeria is as well. So asset recovery has a domestic facet as well as an international facet.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We have questions sent in advance from Madagascar, Manon to our friends in Antananarivo listening at the embassy. We have a question from Midi as well as one from Taratra. If you could speak to the efforts to help fight corruption in Madagascar, particularly in natural resources trafficking there and also comment on U.S. cooperation with Madagascar’s Anti-Corruption Office, which is called BIANCO. Thank you.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR ROBERT LEVENTHAL: Thank you. So, in terms of corruption and natural resources, we do have — I’m not certain whether we have bilateral programs with the particular agency, BIANO, that was mentioned. We do have a regional anti-corruption mentor and partnership with the UN Office of Drugs and Crime that includes Madagascar in its efforts. And we also provide funding to, as I mentioned earlier, Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative and to implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption, both of which can benefit or are benefitting Madagascar.
Other international initiatives that if Madagascar is not already engaged in, we think would be quite useful, the Open Government Partnership Initiative, which is a multi-stakeholder initiative involving governments and civil society in the private sector and the Extracted Industries Transparency Initiative, which focuses of course, specifically on the issue of natural resources.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We’re going to turn to another listening party at U.S. Embassy Ethiopia, if you could go ahead and introduce yourself and your outlet please, thank you.
OPERATOR: And Embassy at Ethiopia, you are open now.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, sir. My name is Michael from the Daily Monitor paper. I’ve got a question. How does U.S. check the accountability of the funds that it gives out to African countries so that a lot of money is not that much embezzled and the accountabilities at the end of the day. And on my second question, how do you cooperate with the African leaders — how does — sorry, how does U.S. check the assets that are being taken to Western world with African leaders considering that much corruption — corrupt people as our leaders in Africa?
DEPUTY DIRECTOR ROBERT LEVENTHAL: Okay, great, this is Robert. So we do have a number of measures to ensure the accountability of the funds that we dedicate to foreign assistance. We have open procurement systems, we have systems to monitor the use of funds once they’re delivered and engaged in programming. We have complaint mechanisms if — and with law protection if people see fraud or corruption or abuse in any kind or program or U.S. government operation. And we have Inspectors General, for example within our U.S. Agency for International Development, that have the mandate and the resources to investigate and refer for prosecution any cases or any allegations that might arise.
So that is an area of great concern to us because we would not want our efforts to be dulled or blunted by any lack of accountability or problems with the funds. In terms of the second question, we do try to put in place and have strong anti-money laundering rules to try to prevent proceeds of crime from coming into the United States in the first place. We place requirements on our banks and other financial institutions to do what’s called customer due diligence and examination of accounts to try to either ensure that dirty money is not coming in or where there are indications of suspicion that that’s referred to our financial intelligence unit and to investigators.
And then we work with other countries to strengthen their anti-money laundering rules as well.
MR. KELLEN MCCLURE: And if I could just add one thing, which is civil society can also play an important role in this regard. For example, it was a civil society organization, Global Witness highlighted and exposed the corrupt assets coming in from the Second Vice President of Equatorial Guinea which actually prompted an investigation by the United States government that ultimately resulted in the seizure of about $30 million worth of assets.
So again, civil society can play a big role in monitoring and exposing corrupt assets that are coming into the United States and other Western countries.
MODERATOR: Thank you again. Just to remind our participants, in order to join the question queue, press *1 on your phone. We’re going to go next to our Embassy in Ghana. Please go ahead, introduce yourself with your name and your outlet, thank you.
OPERATOR: And Ghana, you’re open.
QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Severious Kale Dery. I work for the Daily Graphic. I have just a question to ask. I have a problem. We talk about, you rightly speak about the difficult asset recovery and I’m just wondering what can be done? Is it not possible for us to look at serious or addressing leaders from amassing or taking things so that after their reign, you have to go through that hell in the assets recovery?
For instance, in Ghana, we have or require asset declaration where leaders are supposed to declare whatever they have before entering and when they come out then you will be able to determine whether they have amassed wealth or not. Is there not something that we need to encourage African countries to be doing?
DEPUTY DIRECTOR ROBERT LEVENTHAL: This is Rob, and that’s a great question. And the short answer is absolutely. Both the specific example you gave of asset declarations, assets and income declaration which we have here in the United States, which many countries have. That’s a very effective preventive tool, in fact that was discussed at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery. And in some cases, it’s a matter of countries adopting that measure. In other cases it’s a matter of strengthening it and making sure that it’s effective in practice. And that can involve periodic examinations of the declarations and looking at the assets that the person actually had to see if there’s inconsistencies.
In some cases, it can involve making the asset declaration public as we do for some officials here in the United States so that media and civil society can help to provide oversight but the broader issue is an important one. Which is, in a sense it’s late when we do asset recovery because the corruption has already happened and the money has already left the country. Investing in prevention both through our technical assistance and through the efforts of your countries is extremely important. If there are strong effective measures for prevention which include assets declarations, include many other measures, it makes it much more difficult for the corruption to occur and much more difficult for then the money to leave the country.
MODERATOR: Thank you again. I have another question that was set to us in advance. This is from Maria Byrd, Channels TV. This is another question from Nigeria. President Trump has not spoken often about Africa and it is unclear what his administration’s commitment is to anti-corruption efforts. If you could speak to where the President stands on this issue. And I would add, perhaps, to comment on Attorney General Sessions’ opening the Forum this week in Washington. Thank you.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR ROBERT LEVENTHAL Yes, thank you. As I said, this is a priority for our country. Having a cabinet level official, our Attorney General who is essentially the chief federal prosecutor and the equivalent of a minister of justice come, take his time, provide opening remarks at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery; the existence of our very strong foreign assistance programs that we’ve mentioned, the existence not only of dedicated unit on asset recovery as I mentioned, but there’s another dedicated unit at our Department of Justice on foreign bribery so prosecuting companies and individuals over which we have jurisdiction when they bribe internationally to win business. We have many, many strong work streams and this remains a priority for our government.
MODERATOR: Thanks. I think we have time for just one or two more questions. I think let’s turn to Embassy Nairobi. I know they have several journalists there. There’s another question from Embassy Nairobi, go ahead.
OPERATOR: And Nairobi, you’re open.
QUESTION: My name is Kennedy Kimanthi. I work for The Daily Nation. I have two quick questions. Number one, what are the specific anti-corruption efforts that are being made in Kenya? Number two, in all these processes, in all these initiatives, what is the guarantee of the witnesses who might want to come up and — these are the whistle-blowers who might want to come out and talk of specific corruption cases that they may have information about, what guarantee do they have about their assistance? How is the U.S. bringing in their efforts to help in this particular area? Thank you.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR ROBERT LEVENTHAL: Okay, thank you. So, in terms of our anti-corruption efforts in Kenya, we have a few different programs. We are dedicating approximately $1 million to supporting the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission in Kenya, including a body called the Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit. We’re also supporting the assistance, again about $1 million to help Kenya address corruption at the borders and corruption’s effect on security in law enforcement institutions. This has been a good, ongoing program.
Some of the programs I also mentioned in terms of the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative which we support and efforts by Interpol have also been benefiting Kenya on general anti-corruption training, financial crime investigation and international cooperation linked to asset recovery. I will say, I don’t know specifically whether we’re working on protection of witnesses and whistle-blowers in Kenya. I know that is a part of our partnership and assistance programming in different countries around the world and in our experience, it is quite helpful, quite important, to put in place, measures to provide some assistance and protection to those who would come forward with information about corruption. That can be something, as you all know, that is very difficult to do. It can lead to all sorts of pressure, threats or violence. In many cases, people are putting their safety and security and that of their families at risk when they have the bravery to come forward with that kind of information.
There are different approaches that different countries take including witness protection programs to move people. If they’re in the United States, we will in some cases move people, give them even new identities. We have systems to protect whistle-blowers from retaliation at work. We have measures so that if somebody has been involved but perhaps in a lesser fashion in a corruption crime but is willing to come forward and give evidence or information about others who are involved, we may be able to mitigate their punishment. We may be able to give them some incentive for cooperating with us to have successful prosecutions of those who are higher up or more involved. And obviously this depends on your legal system but that’s been an important sort of measure for us.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Again, to remind our listeners, you can press *1 to try to join the question queue. We have just a minute or two left. I’ll ask a question from Malawi. Rebecca Chimjeka with The Nation asks what kind of assistance the United States is giving to Malawi to fight corruption and perhaps I’d ask our speakers, you could address as well, some of the international initiatives you mentioned earlier in your answer to Madagascar Open Government Partnership and EITI and UN agencies perhaps. But go ahead, sir, thank you.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR ROBERT LEVENTHAL: So, let me start — and this is Robert again. The Open Government Partnership Initiative is an international initiative. And it is not a treaty. It’s a sort of voluntary, multilateral, multi-stakeholder initiative. And when I say multilateral, I merely mean that there are about 80 countries who have signed up, approximately to this initiative. And multi-stakeholder in the sense that it’s not just government-to-government. But it is governments and civil society. And to join the initiative, a country and in consultation with its civil society, commits to principles of open government, of transparency, of engagement with civil society and anti-corruption. And then makes a series of country-specific commitments. So after signing onto these general principles, a given country will look at its own system and say “what are the next steps we can take?”, and this will vary from country to country, to make our government more open, to put more information and data out in the public realm about our operations, to engage civil society more and to undertake more anti-corruption efforts.
And countries can learn from each other, both as they decide what commitments to make and then also as they do the hard work to implement them. There is an independent monitoring process so countries are committing to having their feet held to the fire, as we say. And so an independent expert is chosen to look, after a period, and say to the country, you’ve been succeeding in these of your commitments. You have more work to do in these other commitments. And that creates incentives and pressure for the country to do more and more.
So this has been a really positive engine for reform and for peer learning and for cooperation between governments and civil society. It has triggered all kinds of anti-corruption and transparency commitments that have been put into practice in countries around the world. And I would encourage those who are interested to go look at the website, I think it’s www.opengovernments.org. But we will have that circulated afterwards.
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative has some similarities in that it is again multi-country and multi-stakeholder. In that case it’s a commitment by countries, by companies and by civil society to work together to make public, to make transparent, information about the investments that companies are making and their agreements with countries for the extraction of natural resources for example, oil. This is not the only kind of big transaction that can have tremendous corruption risks, but it is certainly one kind of transaction and one sector in countries that are natural resource rich that poses risk. And so by creating more transparency around those transactions and those agreements, the idea is it’ll be harder to engage in corrupt schemes and of course more transparency permits oversight and investigation and again it’s had a great impact in a number of countries. And the U.S. has supported countries to join EITI and it has been a supporter for many years.
MR. KELLEN MCCLURE: And one thing that I would also add is that almost every country in Africa is a state party to the UN Convention Against Corruption. And one of the obligations that a country takes on as a party to the UNCAC as it’s called, is to do a peer review or be subjected to a peer review where other countries will come in and see how that country is complying with the different provisions of the UNCAC. And what’s helpful is that countries are then required to post at least the executive summary of these reports on the UN ODC, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime website and often countries will publish the full report. And this is a very helpful resource for anyone who’s interested in seeing how a specific country is complying with these different provisions. Right now countries are in the second cycle of this review and they’re being reviewed upon their compliance with the prevention provisions of the Convention as well as their asset recovery compliance.
So again, I would encourage anyone who’s interested to go onto the UN ODC website and see their country’s report and see what type of information is provided there. It’s a very useful resource.
MODERATOR: Thanks, both of you. We have time for one final question from our Embassy listening party in Ethiopia. Please go ahead, introduce yourself and your outlet please.
OPERATOR: Ethiopia, you’re open.
QUESTION: Thank you, my name is Yarig Fagai and I’m a journalist from Ethiopia. My question goes to two follow-ups: How are you working with really building governments like that of Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa and how are you also looking into the developments on Nigeria’s taking on corrupt officials in Ethiopia in recent years along with the appointment of new commissioners for the federal anti-corruption commission– what’s the look of the U.S. on developments in Zimbabwe and Ethiopia?
DEPUTY DIRECTOR ROBERT LEVENTHAL: So, this is Robert. I’m not sure I completely heard the question. What I had understood was that part of it at least was a question about how we work with new governments. I would say that as a general matter, any change in government or most changes of government affords an opportunity to examine our institutions, examine our laws and policies, and to consider how they can be strengthened, especially — or including with respect to anti-corruption. Often — particularly when there’s a change in government, one of the issues that is at the top of the list of citizens’ demands for new government is to see how integrity and anti-corruption can be made even stronger. There may be momentum for legislative changes, momentum to create new institutions or strengthen existing institutions or promote that they work more strongly together. There may even be opportunities for renewed or strengthened partnerships with international partners to exchange good practices or provide assistance.
So, without speaking to the individual circumstances, I think when there are changes in government, often that will provide great opportunities both domestically and for international partners like the U.S.
MODERATOR: And Robert, I think the question was related, if you can speak to either Zimbabwe or Ethiopia specifically, if you have anything to add is what the questioner was getting at.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR ROBERT LEVENTHAL: I think nothing specifically to add on those two countries.
MODERATOR: Okay. Okay, thank you very much for that. Mr. Leventhal or Mr. McClure, do you have any final words before we conclude today?
MR. KELLEN MCCLURE: I, again, just to reiterate that fighting corruption and preventing and combatting corruption is a fundamental part of our efforts to promote good governance. And partnering with governments in Sub-Saharan Africa and with civil society has long been an important part of our engagement on the continent. And we look forward to continuing that engagement and you know, really working and to work with the people of countries across the region to promote integrity and transparency and accountability within the public sector.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR ROBERT LEVENTHAL: And for my part, this is Robert, we really, really appreciate the great interest and the opportunity to talk with you all. We are certainly sorry that the time doesn’t permit us to take every question that you may have. We hope this has been useful and we certainly enjoyed it and appreciated it here.
MODERATOR: Well, thank you. I want to thank both Mr. Robert Leventhal, Deputy Director and Mr. Kellen McClure, Anti-Corruption Advisor, again from the Office of Anti-Crime Programs in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the State Department. This is a very technical issue. We welcome additional questions to the Africa Regional Media Hub. We can help you get answers and get more details. As we heard on this call, the technical and complicated nature of this very, very important issue facing particularly countries in Africa, is something that warrants time and discussion. And we’re very grateful to our two speakers today. Certainly follow up with us if you have any additional questions at our e-mail, afmediahub@state.gov, and of course you can always follow us on Twitter at @africamediahub. Thank you very much to all. That concludes today’s call.

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