Centre de Recherche sur l’ Anti-Corruption (CERC)

CERC is the Congolese civil society organisation that engages citizens to fight against corruption. It brings people together to end the devastating impact of corruption on men, women, and children in Democratic Republic of the Congo. We employ a multiplicity of approaches including:

  • diagnosing corruption issues to general findings and evidences as a reference to stimulate more informed debates and formulate further anti-corruption projects;
  • building and supporting partnerships and coalitions of civil society organisations to fight corruption more effectively;
  • engaging citizens and young people in promoting integrity more actively;
  • convening political dialogues with duty bearers and right holders to deliberate on strategies to combat corruption.

What are your organisation’s main goals?

Our mission is to advance knowledge on the causes and consequences of corruption and support the development of new anti-corruption policies and initiatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

CERC focuses it efforts on communities where projects and services are undermined by fraud, corruption and maladministration. The approach we implement is a response to three common reform challenges in countries where corruption is widespread:

  • How to undertake reforms in country contexts where the top political and administrative leadership is not wholly committed to system change, and where it faces organised, entrenched resistance to reform both the civil service and among powerful economic interests;
  • How to deliver tangible and meaningful change in politically meaningful timeframes; and
  • How to engage citizens, especially young people, to be constructive agents of change.

How does your organisation operate?

CERC is governed by its Board of Directors in line with its articles of association, vision, aims and the organisation’s objectives.

The organisation is run by the CEO who has overall responsibility for strategic and programmatic development and design, operations, fundraising and finances. The CEO manages the Junior Management Team, which includes the Finance and Resources Manager, the Operations Manager and the Head of Programme Development.

What are the biggest successes your organisation has accomplished in the field of anti-corruption in the past years?

  • Through our Civic Participation in public service work, more than 800 students in South-Kivu have been trained, giving thousands of young women and men the opportunity to engage in building integrity in their own communities.
  • By 2019, we helped 6000+ schoolchildren to get better services and infrastructure, such as school buildings and clean water, through rights-based approaches. Our network of schools has monitored over 79 projects and education infrastructure with a total value of more than USD 30 million. Our anti-corruption and integrity building model fixed on average over 33% of problems identified by local monitors through cross-sectorial collaboration and the empowerment of change makers.
  • On January 2018, we launched the Advocacy and Legal Advice Center (ALAC), based on a model developed by Transparency International (TI), implemented in more than 30 countries throughout the world, and adapted to the specificities of the Congolese context. The ALAC project has permitted CERC to mobilise pro bono lawyers in charge of handling corruption cases. Programs on local radio stations have also broadened the reach of ALAC to people living outside Uvira city. For the year 2018 more specifically, 193 people contacted ALAC to obtain legal advice. These contacts were made via our CERC office, via dedicated WhatsApp number and email. The high rate of reporting is attributable to awareness-raising activities, as well as the broadcast of radio spots and communication materials, which have improved ALAC’s visibility.
  • We launched in December 2018 an online platform called “People Choosing Integrity” so we can better highlight the voice of people who actively engage in promoting integrity, through the Integrity Building mapping feature. This platform produces a monthly mapping update for live incidences of corruption and integrity building initiatives, increasing the capacity of “People Choosing Integrity” to provide focus and expert analysis of data on corruption and integrity building.
  • In June 2018 we supported an Integrity Exchange Workshop in Bukavu, with 6 local integrity builders coming together from across the South-Kivu and North-Kivu provinces to discuss the current and future prospects for integrity. Student Acting for Honesty, Integrity and Equality (SHINE) is a community monitoring project that aims to promote transparency and social accountability in the Congolese educational sector by mobilising and engaging students to track the provision of services in secondary schools. During the period of 2018, the program supported 300 students, 40 teachers and 20 principals from 20 secondary schools, and empowered them with resources and skills to combat inefficient and corrupt education services and infrastructure projects in Uvira.

What are the key challenges specific to your local context that your organisation has been facing?

The lack of material and financial resources could potentially impede the implementation of our work. This could result in over-stretching to meet ambitious targets which could drain our capacity.

Current legislation does not protect whistleblowers and does not make it easier for anti-corruption actors to do their work safely and independently (program staff are targeted as retribution for refusing overtures of established corruption networks).

Weak public-private sector involvement in the implementation of anti-corruption and integrity reforms (key counterparts often refuse or obstruct participation unless the project facilitates their rent-seeking behaviour).

A lack of coordination of anti-corruption activities in the country.

What can other organisations learn from you?

  1. When key stakeholders understand the real benefits of community monitoring, they tend to take ownership of the process – thus increasing the chances of problem resolution and sustainability. We have had a case of a private contractor proactively contacting community monitors to verify project effectiveness, and community monitors who continue their monitoring visits long after we have completed support with them, to make sure that solutions to problems are implemented and that the project is running well.
  2. To change and sustain community level support and active engagement on transparency and accountability, we need to influence community and individuals’ behavioural change.
  3. Training and engagement of students and young people (16-25 years) as community monitors has proven to be a success in terms of problem resolution and community engagement. Even the most skeptical partner’s school who believed that young people would not be interested and not be taken seriously, had to change its mind when presented with the results.
  4. CERC is stronger as an organisation. Our organisational structure, planning, learning process and how we respond to partnership opportunities has been considerably strengthened. For example, we have successfully managed  USD 137,000 from the Integrity Action between 2017-2020 and secured USD 148,700 from US Department of State DRL which is major breakthrough; a priority in the next year and beyond is to deliver this grant well, which can serve as a model for others.

To what extent has your organisation been involved in the UNCAC Review Mechanism?

We are advocating with the government for civil society organisations to take part in the UNCAC review mechanism. In addition to this, we engage citizens in the monitoring of public services, denouncing corruption and raising awareness about the participation of civil society organisations in the implementation of the UNCAC.  We work with the Agency for the Prevention and Fight against Corruption, and the National Financial Intelligence Unit.

Why is it important for your organisation to be a member of the UNCAC Coalition?

CERC has extended its anti-corruption activities at the national level, including in Kinshasa, Kongo-Central and North Kivu, and will extend to other provinces in the next 5 years. Accordingly, the organisation believes it is appropriate to join the UNCAC Coalition in order to participate in and contribute to raising awareness on the role of civil society in the implementation of UNCAC, and to mobilise and work with other in-country coalition members to design and implement joint law enforcement and anti-corruption programmes.

CERC has existed as a non-profit NGO for almost 4 years and we feel that we have valuable experience and knowledge to contribute to the UNCAC implementation review process. CERC is convinced that joining the UNCAC Coalition will be of great benefit to CERC, as the organisation wants to be involved in producing a parallel civil society report and producing a follow-up report of the review process.