Tackling Corruption in the Nigerian Ports — A story of collective action highs, lows, and wins

12.04.2020 | Case Studies

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Nigeria loses up to $1.95 billion USD in government revenue and $8.15 billion USD in private sector revenue annually due to corruption at the Nigerian ports[i]. Money lost because of illicit financial flows at ports weighs very heavily on the economy of a country that as of May 2020 projects to borrow more than $14.1 billion USD to finance the 2020 budget[ii]. These losses severely constrict government programs and the capacity to develop and improve much-needed public infrastructure. At the same time, corruption at the ports can operate as a major deterrent to sustainable returns on foreign direct investment.

In an effort to explore solutions to the highly corrupt business environment, stakeholders including the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reform (TUGAR), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), and the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) carried out a corruption risk assessment with a particular focus on maritime operations. The risk assessment identified major areas where corruption was a prevalent risk in the business ecosystem, which MACN addressed through collective action efforts in collaboration with the NSC and all government agencies operating in the maritime sector.

Among other initiatives, the collaboration resulted in the introduction of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for port operators and a Grievance Reporting Mechanism (GRM) to uphold the standards set by the SOPs. Following the establishment of the GRM, the Port Service Support Portal (PSSP) was created as a web portal to administer the complaint collection and communication process under the management and coordination of the NSC. The web portal was created as a one stop shop to resolve complaints in the port industry professionally, confidentially, and efficiently and to increase the levels of accountability of port officials in their adherence to the SOPs. Throughout this report, when authors refer to the PSSP web portal, they are referring to the web portal of the Port Service Support Portal (PSSP) and are not referencing any other reporting channels.

This report set out to evaluate the effectiveness of the web portal as a monitoring and tracking tool to support the GRM in reducing corruption and enhancing efficiency in the complaint resolution process. However, web portal data is not available online and was not made accessible to stakeholders within the timeframe of this report. After several weeks of unsuccessful attempts to access data from the web portal, the focus of the study shifted to the initiative’s background and potential for success when implemented effectively. This report examines data from MACN’s internal reporting mechanism and records of walk-in complaints filed with the NSC, two complaint mechanisms separate from the web portal itself. The authors of this report were provided only a high-level summary of the PSSP web portal’s data indicating the total number of complaints logged per year from 2017-2019. In light of the absence of detailed information, the authors were unable to fully evaluate the effectiveness of the PSSP web portal as an accountability and resolution mechanism for reinforcing the SOPs.

Despite a lack of direct data from the web portal, research conducted for this report clearly indicates that the web portal when evaluated on its own, is currently unable to achieve its goals of reducing corruption and increasing efficiency. By outlining the history and context of the initiative and examining recommended frameworks for similar mechanisms in other regions, this report shines light on several critical improvement opportunities for the PSSP web portal. As the primary tool for monitoring the consistent and appropriate use of the SOPs, it is imperative that the GRM and PSSP web portal become a trusted and effective complaint management system in order to realize the goals of minimizing the risks and opportunities for corruption and restoring confidence and trust among port users.

[i] https://www.portstrategy.com/news101/world/africa/inefficiency-and-corruption-in-nigerian-ports

[ii] https://allafrica.com/stories/202005290348.html