The nexus between records management and perceived corruption in sub-Saharan Africa

Publication Date04 Nov 2020
SubjectAccounting & finance,Financial risk/company failure,Financial crime
AuthorKofi Koranteng Adu
The nexus between records
management and perceived
corruption in sub-Saharan Africa
Kofi Koranteng Adu
Department of Information Technology, University of Professional Studies, Accra,
Ghana and Department of Information Science,
University of South Africa, Pretoria
Purpose This paper aims to chronicle perceived corruption cases emanating from poor records
management in selected countries in sub-Saharan Africa by examining the nexus between records
managementand perceived corruption in Africa.
Design/methodology/approach Using a content analysis approach, based on auditors report and
detailed analysis of available literature, this study examines the nexus between records management and
perceivedcorruption in Africa.
Findings It observed that government agencies can easily be corrupted by ineff‌iciencies in records
management. However, a clear commitment to records management, underpinned by transparency and
accountability, ensures that public off‌ice holders can be held accountable for their actions. Free and
unhampered access to informationpromotes transparency in the administration of public funds and public
Research limitations/implications The study selected only 14 African countries for the study to
establish the nexus betweencorruption and records management. Further studiesare needed to cover all the
countriesin Africa.
Practical implications The paper contributes to the ongoing debate that effective records management is
crucially important in the preventiono f corruption.It does this at a time when most African countries have made
commitments towards the 17 goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development goals of th e UN. The implementation of
these goals can effectively be achieved in an environment where there is an effective records management system
to ensure that public off‌icershave access to information in the delivery of their duties.
Originality/value The paper is written at a time whenmost African countries have made commitments
towardsthe 17 goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development goalsof the UN.
Keywords Corruption, Transparency, Accountability, Records Management
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
If there is any one issue that troubles most Africans, then it is the visible presence of
corruption in sub-Saharan Africa. Corruption has become a growing phenomenon which
most governments in Africa are strugglingto address (Srivastava et al.,2016;Bhattacherjee
and Shrivastava, 2018). Of the 176 countriesin the world perceived to be corrupt, more than
40% were found to be in sub-Saharan Africa (CorruptionPerception Index, 2016). Although
important steps towards corruption have been made since the 1990s, corruption remains
relatively endemicin Africa.
The author will like to thank the editors of the journal for accepting to publish the paper. There was
no funding for the paper.
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.28 No. 1, 2021
pp. 268-283
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JFC-07-2020-0134
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Corruption impedes economic development as the corrupt do not usually invest the ill-
gotten funds in ways that promote growth. The World Bank describes corruption as misuse of
entrusted powerand/or abuse of public off‌icefor private gai n(Kargbo,2006). In other w ords,
corruption happens when both public and private off‌icers inappropriately enrich themselves
through unapproved means. While there is no universal def‌inition of corruption, the general
consensus is that corruption negatively affects society. Among the many causes of corruption
such as low economic freedom, high levels of bureaucracy, weak administrative structures in
national institutions, poor government decentralization mechanisms, poor professional
capacities in supply chains, lack of procurement safeguards (Andrzej and Łukasz, 2018 and
Daniel, 2013), no study so far has comprehensively identif‌ied records management and
accountability as potential explanatory variables of corruption. Poor records management is
one of the channels/routes used by public off‌icers to facilitate corruption activities (World
Bank,2011a, 2011b). Poorly managed records prevent evidences needed to prosecute offenders
of corruption in court. In a poorly managed records management system, accountability and
transparency are weak; f‌inancial decisions and transactions cannot be verif‌ied, trailed and
reported (Palmer, 2000). Indeed, unauthorized purchases, inf‌lated contracts and illegal
payments can only thrive in an environment where ineffective records management exists.
There are several fragmented exemplars in Africa that go to show how poor records
management has led to perceived corruption. For instance, the failure of ministries,
department and agenciesin Ghana to maintain proper records keeping to effectivelymonitor
projects and ascertain at any point their f‌inancial obligation, nearly resulted in the
fraudulent payment of US$1bn (Report of Auditor General of Ghana, Ghana, 2016). In
Nigeria, the Auditor Generals report observed that there were no cashbooks and payment
vouchers raised to support the expenditure of US$131,555,286.75 from the Project Support
Unit Bank Account (AuditorGeneral Report of 2016). The situation was also not differentin
Malawi, as in 2012, the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS),
which was designed to enable governments monitor their budget and cash position was
exploited. The perpetrators were able to transfer funds from government bank accounts to
vendor accounts for goods and services which were never supplied and then deleted the
transactions from IFMIS (Report of the Auditor General of Malawi, Malawi, 2018) These
reported cases underscore the connectionbetween corruption and records management and
further go to show the role recordsmanagement plays in exposing corruption;
An effective management of records means that there is enough information on
procurement processes, accounting procedures and programs to enhance public trust and
legitimacy (Institute of Economic Affairs, 2019). Through records management the creation of
quality documentation (authenticity, reliability and integrity), tracking of decisions
(traceability) and the provision of programmes and budgets can be put in place (de Mingo and
Cerrillo-i-Martínez, 2018). Unfortunately, this is not the situation in many African countries as
various scholars and policy makers have lamented over poor management of records.
As was noted by Wamukoya (2000), the state of records management in many African
countries makes it impossible to determinethe responsibility of government off‌icials and to
hold them accountable for that responsibility. Very often off‌icials found to have engagedin
such corrupt practices have gone unpunished because of delays or diff‌iculties in obtaining
evidence to respond to corruption allegations. It is not for nothing that missing f‌iles and
destruction of vital digital records in government off‌ices are often reported (Adu, 2016).
Such destruction of vital records insulates corrupt off‌icials from any f‌inancial malfeasance
when they are brought before any court of law (Adu, 2016). Again, various post-election
violence and wars in sub-Saharan Africa have in one way or the other impeded the
development and progressof records management. Memories of the 20072008 post-election

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