Risk assessment and mitigation plans best placed to combat public sector graft

Risk assessment and mitigation plans best placed to combat public sector graft

By David Wanjala

Prevention is the way to go in the war against corruption. It is cheaper than enforcement in terms of resources and time. According to Fredrick Mainda, a senior education officer at the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), the damage corruption causes in society is, more often than not, irreversible since stolen resources are hardly recovered, adding that the vice undermines the rule of law and democracy and leads to violation of human rights. 

Mr Mainda facilitated EACC’s training of Konza Technopolis Development Authority’s (KoTDA) Corruption Prevention Committee (CPC) that was recently held in Naivasha. 

Through his presentation, Corruption Risk Assessment (CRA) and Mitigation Plan, Mainda defined CRA as the process of identifying loopholes in an organization that could provide opportunities for corrupt practices and that it focuses on the potential for, rather than the perception, existence, or extent of corruption. CRA involves evaluating the likelihood of corruption occurring and the impact it would have should it happen.

The Corruption Risk Mitigation Plan (CRMP), on the other hand, is the systematic development of appropriate mechanisms to address or mitigate the identified risks. The documented efforts and resources directed towards sealing loopholes induce corruption and include devising strategies to change organizational features that allow the vice to occur and remain unnoticed and unreported.

The regulatory framework through which corruption risks are managed in the public sector includes the State Corporations Act Cap 446, Public Officers’ Ethics Act 2003, Public Audit Act 2015, Public Procurement and Disposal Act 2015, and Public Finance Management Act 2012 to name a few. Other mechanisms include rules and regulations, Treasury circulars and guidelines, external and internal audits, service charters, annual work plans, review of financial statements, and performance contracting monitoring, among others.

From the risk assessment and mitigation, an institution is likely to develop a systematic and proactive system of corruption prevention, ascertain actual risks and establish potential losses, reduce the occurrence, develop a mitigation plan and reduce the vulnerability of staff to corruption. It also helps maintain a good corporate image and reputation, inspires trust, increases efficiency and optimizes resources, detects corruption, and ensures there is no hiding place for the corrupt and dishonest.

The process

While implementing a corruption risk assessment, one first identifies and classifies the functional areas in the organization based on product and service outputs, operational areas and locations, revenue generation, and asset utilization. Secondly, it is useful to list the potential corruption risks for each functional area. You can, for example, look at a particular area of exposure, such as the cash office, and try to answer questions such as what may go wrong, where, and why.

One would then evaluate recognized risks with impact — the negative implication that a particular risk would have on the organization in terms of institutional image, public trust, financial loss, public safety, time, confidence, and productivity.

Next, one needs to identify intervention measures to the risk areas. This involves risk detection and prevention. One can, for example, introduce regular audits and checks, implement quality controls or automate clerical tasks that are prone to human error or even rotation of staff. 

While selecting the best intervention measures, it is important to consider the relative effectiveness and costs of different options for managing specific skills, as in some instances, you may only need administrative action. In yet others, one may have to design new rules, regulations, and guidelines. It is always useful to remember to keep interventions simple.

Subsequently, one must document your plan by spelling out the activities to be carried out logically and sequentially, with timelines. Lastly, one must implement, monitor, evaluate and review the plan.

Even though a Corruption Prevention Committee in a public institution is chaired by the CEO, who also appoints members, membership is a strict reserve of department heads. The secretary to the committee is a trained Integrity Assurance Officer (IAO), tutored by the EACC. The IAO assists the organization’s CEO and CPC members in developing, reviewing, and implementing the organization’s anti-corruption policies, codes of conduct, and ethics; carrying out CRAs; preparing prevention plans; and, generally, coordinating and facilitating prevention implementation programmes.

Mr Mainda reminded the KoTDA CPC team that for corruption risk assessment and mitigation to succeed, management support is key, resources must be available, staff need to be involved, and networking is key. He also emphasized on the relevant attitude, saying that the “do it later”, “it is difficult,” “cut and paste,” and “just for compliance” frame of mind should be avoided. “Everyone has a stake and therefore a responsibility to fight corruption. We can only win the fight through collaborative efforts and, therefore, there’s a need to build linkages and partnerships.”

During the past five years, the EACC has conducted 15 systems examinations and 42 corruption risk assessments for various institutions and also offered 3654 advisories that, together with other efforts, disrupted possible loss of public funds worth Sh38 billion. This has emboldened the Commission’s resolve to nip corruption in the bud through Education and Public Awareness (EPA) initiatives as we advance.

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