Sweden is one of the world's largest donors to the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the high level of corruption in the country affects development cooperation. Utvecklingsmagasinet has interviewed Joachim Beijmo, head of development assistance at the Swedish embassy in Kinshasa.
In the Democratic Republic (DR) Congo, the situation is critical on many different levels as the state is weak, poverty is widespread and the country has long been plagued by conflicts. In addition, corruption is widespread. Sweden is among them largest donors in the world to DR Congo and has just started it new strategy for development cooperation for the period 2021 to 2025. Joachim Beijmo, head of development assistance at the Swedish embassy in Kinshasa, says that corruption in the country is one of the risks that must be assessed and managed when development cooperation is carried out.
- Corruption affects development cooperation. And it is not just public administration that is corrupt, but there is widespread corruption in society. It is hidden in many sectors, says Beijmo.
According to Transparency Internationals corruption perception index DR Congo is one of the countries that performs worst when it comes to the level of corruption. The index is based on expert opinions and countries are graded based on the perceived level of corruption in the country on a scale from 0 to 100, where lower scores mean higher levels of corruption. In 2019, DR Congo was ranked 168 out of 180 countries with only 18 points out of 100 possible, and was thus one of the countries with the highest perceived corruption in the world.
In addition to complicating development cooperation, corruption also risks weakening democracy and trust in a society. Sida, Sweden's development assistance authority, defines corruption as an abuse of trust, power or position for improper gain. Corruption can take the form of, for example, bribery, extortion and embezzlement.
Precautions in cooperation
Beijmo says that the high level of corruption means that donors must be especially careful with whom they collaborate. Before signing agreements with various partners, the organization's capabilities and its control system are assessed.
- We have no direct agreements with the Congolese state, but the work takes place at a decentralized level, says Beijmo.
Agreements are therefore concluded instead with various organizations, largely the UN agencies and also many international non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam. These then cooperate with Congolese organizations.
Follow-up and checks are also important to ensure that the money actually goes to the right purpose. In DR Congo, donors and partners therefore follow up the cooperation with these organizations more than usual. Sample surveys are conducted every year, and additional sample audits are performed to detect and prevent corruption.
Can recover the money
It is through these checks that irregularities can be detected. Only in extreme situations are agreements concluded, for example if the partner does not improve or does not actively work to prevent corruption. Instead of terminating collaborations, it is therefore more common for donors to reclaim the money.
- The most common is that the organization we work with discovers that something is not going right and pays back the money, Beijmo says.
Works to prevent corruption
In addition to trying to detect and prevent corruption, Swedish development cooperation also strives to prevent corruption.
- Corruption is a societal problem and those who suffer from corruption are the Congolese. We must, of course, protect taxpayers' money, but we must also get to the root of the problem, says Beijmo.
Beijmo says that Swedish development cooperation tries to fight corruption by, among other things, supporting free media and civil society. Sweden's development assistance also contributes to increasing digitalisation in the country, which can also reduce the risk of corruption. An open and transparent society is important for changing corrupt environments.
The president promises improvement
Despite the difficult situation, there is still hope for change. Lately valet in 2019, the opposition managed to win and Felix Tshisekedi became DR Congo's new president. This meant a change of power when the former president Joseph Kabila had to resign his post after 18 years as president. Tshisekedi has sworn that he will work to combat the widespread corruption in the country.
- At the embassy, we are cautiously positive about the new president. His message is positive, but we have not had time to see so many effects of it yet, Beijmo concludes.