AU: Member states complain of unfair hiring practices, internal corruption

By The Africa Report

Posted on Wednesday, 15 February 2023 17:31
Photo of the African Union's Opening Ceremony of the 42nd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, February 2023.

Institutional corruption and reform at the African Union (AU) Commission were high on the agenda as foreign ministers convened in Addis Ababa for the 42nd meeting of the body’s Executive Council on Wednesday 15 February.

The ministers discussed a hefty report of more than 70 pages prepared by the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC), chaired by Senegal, which itself met last month. Among other issues, the report highlighted the lack of sanctions against AU Commission staff members who have committed financial irregularities.

Referencing the report during the Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, Nigeria’s representative said his delegation was “deeply concerned” by the “non-enforcement of sanctions” against commission employees guilty of corruption.

They “must be sanctioned” for “any infringements committed”, he says.

Unfair AU hiring practices

Allegations of corruption and cronyism had long dogged the AU Commission. In 2021, Devex reported that an external audit carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers concluded there was “possible wrong-doing, misuse and/or mismanagement of the AUC’s resources” in several areas, including staff recruitment. It also found irregularities in staff remuneration and allowances.

The previous year, the commission’s chairperson, Moussa Faki, faced accusations of cronyism after a leaked memo likened the AU to a “mafia-style” cartel over its handling of senior appointments, which it said were made without due process. His spokesperson denied the allegations at the time.

However, some member states still feel the allocation of jobs is unfair. At the Executive Council meeting, Libya’s representative complained that his compatriots “had difficulties getting posts based on their skills and experience” at the AU.

He added that “good governance of finances” is necessary if the AU is to achieve “Agenda 2063”, its blueprint for transforming Africa into a “global powerhouse”.

On the sidelines of Wednesday’s meeting, delegates from the Horn of Africa also raised the makeup of the AU Peace and Security Council as an issue, saying their region is not sufficiently represented on the body, whose membership is rotating.

Bloated body?

Other issues discussed by the foreign ministers include the problem of AU projects not being completed on time and on budget, with grand institutional pledges going unfulfilled.

Ghana’s representative said budget allocation for AU initiatives “should be linked to execution rates” and said the West African country would “not support any more expenses” unless “funding timelines are adhered to”.

Uganda’s delegation also flagged the “low execution rate” of projects the AU, while Ethiopian Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen highlighted what he called “major anomalies in the financial performance of the union”.

Two decades after it was founded, the AU has come to be seen as ineffectual by many young Africans as it struggles to respond to multiple crises gripping the continent, including increasingly frequent coup d’états, protracted conflicts and mounting humanitarian needs. At the same time, it has swelled in size.

In 2016, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame was appointed to oversee a reform process to streamline the AU and deal with the issue of institutional fragmentation, amid criticisms the organisation had become too bloated. He concluded the AU was not fit for purpose and put forward recommendations that are still being implemented.

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor referenced these concerns at the Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, warning that the AU risks morphing into an “unwieldy animal that will cost us a great deal, but not advance our course” if it creates too many new institutions or enlarges existing ones.

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