Likening corruption in some ways to an addictive drug, Paul Volcker urged those in situations where there is pressure to engage in bribery and corruption to “Just say no” – a message that must come from the very top leaders in all sectors. Mohamed Ibrahim, Chairman of hugely successful Celtel communications company, reinforced the point, noting that from day one the company had committed to not spending a single dollar on bribes and had built a “squeaky clean” reputation that has helped attract investors and increase shareholder returns. This despite operating in some of the most difficult environments in Africa - from Chad to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Both spoke as panelists at Sunday's closing plenary session on "Partnerships to Combat Corruption" organized by the World Bank Institute and IFC at the Program of Seminars for the Annual Meetings. In Mr. Wolfowitz’s opening remarks, he reinforced the need to support the brave individuals who speak out and take on corruption, often at great personal risk. Corruption can kill, as illustrated by the murder of banking reformer Andrei Kozlov in Moscow just days ago.
Yet Nuhu Ribadu, Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria, joined with his fellow countryman Dele Olojede in calling for leaders to step up to the plate. In inspiring fashion, Ribadu was up front about his task to take on those who are corrupt whatever their position and whatever the risk – “We, those of us on the receiving end [of corruption], are calling for a change.”
Taking up the partnership theme, John Githongo, former anti-corruption czar in Kenya, noted the need to uproot embedded networks of corruption with effective rule of law and executive accountability. Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International, argued that an effective challenge to these networks of corruption can be mounted by bringing together the right people from different sectors around the table and pushing a combined and sustained commitment for good governance.