By Sara Perez-Grill
One serious problem confronting many African countries is corruption. To fight corruption the state must build strong and enduring institutions that will help create long-term stability. Corruption, fraud and crime have become so engrained in the lives of South Africans they are starting to believe things will never change. It is said that trying to tackle corruption is like trying to drill into a bottomless hole. One international law firm, Covington & Burling, are taking on the challenge. Benjamin Haley, one of our guest speakers at JoMUN, is part of that firm.
Benjamin S. Haley leads the firm’s compliance and investigation practice in Africa. He has particular expertise in anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, fraud and financial crime. One major aspect of his job is compliance advisory work, where businesses deal with corruption and fraud.
In compliance work, experts help companies set up programs which reduce the risk of fraud and corruption. These programs include policies, procedures and controls that will benefit the employees working within the different businesses by making sure those crimes do not happen again.
“For example, if there is a U.S. company operating in Nigeria, the Nigerian business will likely need to comply with the U.S laws.”
Lawyers at Covington & Burling give legal advice on how best to comply with those U.S. and other laws, and that’s when the programs start to progress. Covington often helps businesses conduct risk assessments in their businesses. If the situation at the businesses take a wrong turn, Covington often assists companies in conducting investigations to figure out what happened and gain additional information needed to solve the problem.
Small businesses often do not have the same resources to solve corruption issues as larger companies and may have to deal with corruption more often. One thing they can do is look at their business and try to pinpoint where their business faces corruption risks. Such ideas come from ways on how to teach their employees to make the right decisions, and work with other businesses.
This year’s theme “Africa Connecting” is all about nations being able work together for mutual benefit.
“There are a lot of countries that are doing a tremendous amount of work to combat corruption,” Mr. Haley said.
The firm collaborates with international organizations to share practices and information about law enforcement in different countries. This is done so that countries can combat, for example in the case of South Africa, government officials who take bribes, involve themselves in crimes, or fraud.
Many of the clients working with Covington & Burling are scattered across Africa.
“They need to address compliance first, and they definitely need to be thinking beyond local borders,” Mr. Haley said.
“What gives me great hope working in Africa, is how the young people are a driving force for anti-corruption.
Mr. Haley said young people realize corruption is a “stumbling block” to good governance.
“Young people have the potential to change the old traditional system, and it’s crucial for them to get involved.”