Sexual harassment, graft rife at AU Commission – report

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Senior officers at the African Union Commission have been harassing
young female staffers on contract for sex, an inquiry report has
revealed.

A special committee commissioned in May by AUC chairman
Moussa Faki to probe allegations of sexual harassment also reveals
massive corruption and nepotism incidents.

The High-Level
Committee chaired by AUC’s Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security
Bineta Diop states that youthful female volunteers and interns have also
been targets of sexual harassment. 

Sexual harassment by the victims’ “supervisors” often happens during official missions away from work stations.

“It
would appear that the vulnerability of this category of staff is
exploited on account of their insecurity of tenure,” reads part of the
report released on Thursday.

AUC is based at African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The
Diop-led HLC team points out lack of a policy against sexual harassment
and abuse at AUC is to blame for the to the existence of the vice. 

“Senior
departmental staff, who position themselves as ‘gate-keepers’ and ‘king-makers’, are well-positioned to make believable promises to young
women that they will be offered contracts, are the identified
perpetrators of this vice,” reads the report.

Faki commissioned
the inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations leveled against the
Commission through an anonymous letter in addition to fulfilling his
pledge of getting rid of malpractices after taking over in March 2017.

The HLC during the inquiry interviewed 88 employees across all departments including senior officials and junior staff.

“Interviewees
claim that these cases are not reported as this would be
counter-productive to the victim because there is no sexual harassment
policy in the Commission,” reads the report.

“Therefore, no
dedicated, effective redress and protection mechanism available to
victims or whistle-blowers. According to interviewees, the young women
are exploited for sex in exchange for jobs.”

Senior male and female staff are also implicated in intimidation, bullying and harassing of junior employees.  

Diop’s
team, thus, asks AUC to reinforce its zero tolerance policy on sexual
harassment by developing comprehensive guidelines to protect victims and
punish perpetrators heavily.

Some of serious graft practices
rocking the Faki-led Commission, according to the findings are payments
for services not offered and officers colluding to overcharge costs of
goods and services for selfish gains.

The Commission is also implicated in nepotism and conflict of interest and favoritism in awarding tenders to suppliers.

“HLC
concluded that human resources malpractices and irregularities include
backlog in staff recruitment, seconded staff disadvantaged, management
of youth volunteers and interns and lack of consistency in the
implementation of rules relating to acting appointments,” the report
reads.

Other malpractices are continued extension of contracts of
retirees which should be done in a limited way, shortlisting of
applicants, gender discrimination in hiring, promotions, transfers and
field deployment of employees.

The inquiry team recommends a
review in the leadership structure of AUC, audit of employees in terms
their competency and gender representation.

“Lifestyle audit to
be carried out in order to detect any patent manifestation of
unexplained income_ with the introduction as appropriate form of
declaration of interest by procurement and human resource managers as a
precondition for appointment,” the team recommends.

The inquiry
team asked Faki to set up an internal committee to ensure the
recommendations are fully implemented in bid to reform the Commission.

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By Kenyan Digest

The Kenyan Digest Team