Thoughts on governance in the security and defence sector

This short paper aims to share few thoughts on governance issues in the security and defence sector based on my personal assessment of cote d’Ivoire. Transparency International published an outstanding index in 2013 (GI2013) by assessing corruption risks in the defence sector. The topics (themes) that I cover below, all come from that Index. One can easily apply the guidelines to any country and adapt them to the national reality.

1/ Legislative scrutiny over defence and security policies:

There is a formal provision for effective and independent legislative scrutiny of defence policy in Cote d’Ivoire (article 71 of constitution). However, in practice, that provision is insufficient because the national Defence Policy formulation process itself is not mentioned in the constitution as being part of the National Assembly (NA) mandate for scrutiny.

Indeed, Article 71 of the constitution stipulates that only “Military Personnel status”, “the Police status” and “Defence organization” are all subjected to the national assembly inputs. This is largely unsatisfactory and limits the action of the National Assembly.

The budget issue is also mentioned in that article 71, so it is the responsibility of the NA to vote the national defence budget before it is implemented. There is to this date no evidence of such vote for the past 4 years.

At last, despite the fact that the legislative scrutiny is referred to in the constitution, the influence of the NA on the defence policy formulation has always been very limited if not ineffective.

So as a general recommendation, legislative scrutiny over defence and security policies in any country is necessary and clearly proves a good level of transparency.

2/ Public debate over the defence policy:

Unfortunately, in cote d’Ivoire, the national defence policy is not debated and publicly available. One major reason for that is the opacity surrounding this issue. Moreover, a national security strategy has been adopted by the National council for Security (CNS). Unless this security policy is adopted by the national assembly, it will not be publicly available.

Therefore, one must admit that efforts have been made to bring issues related to national defence to the public.

The security sector reform is bringing the authorities to formally formulate a national defence policy which is inclusive and holistic. For instance, the national SSR strategy is available publicly and has been debated openly (all SSR actors participated) before being adopted. On the other hand, a public consultation (survey) has not been done to this end.

At last, the national assembly has not yet examined and passed the Law related to  the National Security and defence  Policy. This is due to the fact that this policy has not been made available to the national assembly.

As a general rule for a country to prove a certain level of transparency and good governance, it is critical to involve the public in the formulation of any defence or security policy through a public consultation (survey).

3/ Anti corruption policy dedicated to the defence and security sector:

Cote d’Ivoire has an openly stated general anti-corruption policy. Indeed, “the national plan for good governance and against corruption” and “the order N° 202013-660 of September 20th of 2013 about prevention and fight against corruption” are the main anti-corruption instruments.  They also apply to the military forces and the police.

However there is no openly stated and actively implemented anti-corruption policy towards the defence sector exclusively. “The military code “ does not specifically address corruption issues that might concern the soldier. In 2013, the Ministry of Defence initiated an Ethical Charter and a military code of conduct.  To this day there is no evidence of any of those two initiatives to be effectively adopted by the national assembly or any other institution. Nor are they publicly available. To this date the ministry of defence has arrested many soldiers involved in racketeering, extortion and fraud. Still efforts have to be made to implement the rules equally among soldiers involved in such crimes.

So in order to be effective, an anti-corruption policy must be clearly stated and strongly implemented.

4/ Whistleblowing as a solution to fight corruption:

Whistleblowing as a mean to fight corruption is more and more encouraged by the government. There is a law that protects whistleblowers from any type of threat (Order N°202013-660, chapter 3). This law applies to any citizen whether he belongs to the defence or the security ministries.

It is almost impossible to say whether this law offering protection is working in practice because security must prevail for any whitleblower. However, the chapter dedicated to this matter exists. The law has to be applied. Besides, the lack of trust among military personnel prevents any whistleblowing activity.

Whistleblowing as a mean to fight corruption in the security forces is a effective way provided there are clear guidelines and that allegations are not made on a subjective basis.

5/ Objective appointment and promotion within the security and defence forces:

The military personnel are unfortunately not subjected to an independent, transparent and objective appointment system in cote d’Ivoire. Nepotism and tribalism have for the past 3 years harmed the whole selection process for appointments in the military. Indeed, there is a committee in charge of appointments within the military but this committee lacks independence and transparency. Most of the time appointments will be made accordingly to political orders coming from above. Since the end of the crisis in 2011, tribal biased appointments have been denounced by international NGOs such as International Crisis Group and Amnesty International.

Regarding promotions, theoretically, military personnel are promoted through an objective and meritocratic process. Besides, within the defence and security institutions can be found specific committees in charge of assessing potential candidates for promotion, in conformity with the law and internal rules. However, political consideration and favoritism sometimes weaken the process. In many cases external institutions influence decisions made by those committees. So there is no independent oversight on this matter.

Appointment and promotion are key matters when it comes to governance in the defence and security sectors. So they both have to be tackled very seriously.Objectivity and merit must prevail in the decisions made. Moreover, mechanisms created to manage appointments and promotions must be independent.

6/ Defence purchases coherence with identified and quantified requirements:

In cote d’Ivoire, most of the defence purchases made do not derive from any coherent assessment mechanism. So there are no clearly identified and quantified requirements. For some specific security situations, needs are identified and purchases made. So it is more opportunistic than thoroughly planned. For instance the latest purchase of surveillance and war vessels in 2014, does not comply with the national security strategy or any other policy document. However these maritime acquisitions derive from the need to counter maritime piracy and to show neighbors the maritime capacity of cote d’ivoire in case of dispute or crisis.

Coherence and conformity must prevail when it comes to defence or security purchases because requirements exist within security and defence policies and acquisition laws and must be implemented as planned.

 

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