JOHANNESBURG, Weak institutions lead to corruption, says the World Bank's Regional Procurement Manager for the Africa Region, Krish Krishnakumar, who told the Public Procurement Conference here Wednesday that corruption in the public sector remains a huge barrier to sustainable development in Africa.

Calling for better values and culture of corporate governance, he said it had been estimated that 25 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of African countries is lost to corruption every year.

Public procurement is a key link in achieving public service delivery to citizens and promoting good governance and both are particularly critical in the Africa region. The forum, which is jointly organized by the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB), is seeking solutions to curb corruption, among other things.

The World Bank, which supports almost 200 countries on projects and programmes of development, says economic growth is dependent on a country's core values. "Fundamentally, it boils down to values and culture and behaviour. You can put any amount of systems in place and institutions in place but the problem is if the institutions don't function properly, they corrupt and are lethargic and they will not move, said Krishnakumar.

The AfDB also warned against political instability. "The solutions, if they are not personality driven, but are driven by strong institutions and systems. That is what is going to achieve long term stability in terms of the economy, in terms of the decision making, in terms of the confidence of the rest of the world in that particular country," said the AfDB.

The conference heard that after nearly two decades of civil war, Liberia was able to bring political stability by implementing procurement reforms.

"It was realised that one of the key contributing factors to the civil war (in Liberia) was the inequitable distribution of our resources thought the improper allocation of contracts, unfair provision of special preferences for individuals who had contacts. Because of that, economic wealth was actually skewed to a few people and this created a lot of discontentment amongst people," said Liberian diplomat James Dorbor Jallah.

The conference ends on Friday.