Building capacity to report, expose corruption
To improve media oversight and reporting of corruption cases, Justice for All, a programme under the UK Department for International Development, (DFiD) last week held a two-day media roundtable on anti-corruption reportage for media professionals and civil society organizations.
There were paper presentations, discussions and brainstorming sessions on better ways to fight and report corruption.
In his paper, The Role of the media in fighting corruption, the Director of International Press Centre, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, said the media must accord higher priority to the monitoring and tracking of budget because there is a close relationship between budgets and corruption. “So, the anti-corruption reporter is often enjoined to study the key stages in the budget process where corruption frequently occurs.”
According to him, areas in the budget that have been identified to be more vulnerable to corruption include health, education, infrastructure, poverty eradication being areas that usually attract donor funding.
“The key role of the media with regard to budget is to ask if there is any progress and the answer could only be obtained through frequent observation of situation on the ground and comparison of work in progress with original plan.
Arogundade also believed that besides the budget, the media should monitor, track and report procurement process.
He further arfued the media would be playing an effective role in the fight against corruption if it beams appropriate searchlight on the extractive industries.
The Executive Director of Media Right Agenda, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, who spoke on combating corruption through the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) stated that an FOI Law is one of the most important ways of achieving transparency and accountability in governance.
He then noted that such transparency and accountability could in turn serve as a disincentive for corrupt practices or help to reveal corruption.
Ojo maintained that if the media could establish a habit of regular use of the FOI Act to seek information from government and government agencies, it could bring about a reduction in corruption.
He provided some example of the successful use of the FoI acts in other clime and its impact in fighting and exposing corruption in those places.
Also, Barrister Juliet Ibekaku, provided an overview of the Nigerain Financial Intelligence Centre (NFIC) Bill, 2014. She highlighted the objectives and rationale for the setting of the NFIC stating that the Centre is responsible for the identification, assessment and compilation of reports on risks of money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Speaking on identifying and tracking obstacles to effective media coverage or corruption, Dr. Jide Jimoh of School of Communication, Lagos State University, stated that coverage of corruption falls mainly within the investigative realm by the Fourth Estate; but certain obstacles hamper this important function.
“Perhaps the greatest obstacle to corruption coverage is corruption itself. By the nature of corruption in public life, it seeks to recruit collaborators by all means possible and, most often, the journalist is a prime target.”
He also listed ownership influence, legal constraints, co-opting of journalists with appointments, membership of boards of government agencies and other forms of patronage, as some of the obstacles to reporting corruption.
Jimoh however said that the obstacles are not insurmountable, as the media cannot abandon its responsibility of holding governments accountable to the people as enshrined in the country’s constitution.
Proffering solution, he suggested training and retraining on the job on the evils of corruption and the tools for investigating.
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