Rasheedat Okoduwa cuts a striking figure as she addresses her fellow Hong Kong students. In bright red, traditional African dress and with a voice that needs no help from the microphone provided, Okoduwa is animated as she spells out the importance of her country arresting and convicting a senior politician for corruption. 'It was a watershed,' she tells students on the University of Hong Kong's school of professional and continuing education's corruption studies course. Okoduwa, assistant director of education with Nigeria's Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), is one of 36 students from 12 countries on the three-week, full-time programme, and they are no ordinary students. With the exception of one, who is from the mainland's liaison office in Hong Kong, the others work with anti-corruption agencies. Apart from studying theories on corruption, legislation and comparative strategies, the students learn about Hong Kong's 'three-pronged' approach to fighting corruption: enforcement, prevention and education. But the course's architect, Tony Kwok Man-wai, former deputy commissioner with the Independent Commission Against Corruption, set up in 1974, explained that the programme went way beyond the Hong Kong approach. 'People don't come here just to learn the Hong Kong model; we teach international best practice,' he said. 'The Singapore model is taught by the former director of the Corrupt Practice Investigation Bureau. Another lecturer is a senior official from the ICAC, New South Wales.' Kwok, who retired from the ICAC in 2002 after 27 years, said fighting corruption required a comprehensive approach. 'The comprehensive approach is through public education, so that people don't want to be corrupt; prevention, so even if they want to be corrupt they can't because of system supervision; and thirdly, the deterrent, so that even if they want to be and can be, they daren't,' he said. 'You need a strong investigative force to deter people from being involved in corruption. Corruption becomes a high-risk crime.' Many countries failed to realise 'what their priority should be'. 'Many take the easy way out. They say, 'we focus on education' or 'we focus on prevention', but really, what you need to focus on is investigation. 'Then you must have effective, corruption-unfriendly laws, comprehensive offences as well as adequate investigative powers for the anti- corruption agency, effective prosecution, effective judiciary. 'And you need a partnership approach. You can't do it alone. You have to work together with the government, NGOs, schools, media - everyone needs to be involved. And you need to have adequate resources. That is very important. In many countries I have visited, anti-corruption agencies only have peanuts,' Kwok said. 'Last but not least is political will. You have to make sure that the anti-corruption agency is independent, free from political interference, allowed to work according to the law.' He said in Hong Kong's case the political leadership of the day had driven the anti-corruption cause and led to the setting up of the ICAC. 'We were lucky because the governor at the time, Murray MacLehose, had the political will and the first commissioner, Sir Jack Cater, was a very capable civil servant.' Nigeria was a special case last week as the students prepared to make their final presentations. Six groups compared the anti-corruption measures of three countries, each group including Nigeria. Why was Nigeria on every agenda? For two reasons. First, because of the 36 students, 12 were from the country. This reflected the second reason: the commitment it has made in recent years to countering corruption. That was why Okoduwa was so upbeat about the conviction this year of former Nigerian Ports Authority chairman and prominent politician Bode George for contract fraud. Although George, who is chairman of the ruling People's Democratic Party, is not the only official to have been arrested and charged with corruption, he is the most senior figure. He was investigated by Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), a sister agency of the ICPC. After finishing her presentation comparing anti-corruption measures in Australia, Rwanda and Nigeria, Okoduwa explained why the case was so important. 'It's the not the first time we've arrested a public figure, but it marks a watershed because of the status of the man and the political party involved,' she said. 'Before 2000 it would have been virtually impossible, but from 2000 on, when former president Olusegun Obasanjo made anti-corruption a major focus of his administration, the law against corruption was passed and the EFCC and ICPC were set up, society has been gradually evolving into one where we can prosecute high-ranking people.' During students' presentations it was revealed that Nigeria spent just under US$58 million on anti-corruption measures this year, 0.27 per cent of its national budget. Just a few years ago spending was virtually zero and the country was at the bottom of Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, in 180th position. It has now risen to 130th, although it is down from 121st last year. Okoduwa said: 'We are trying to reform society, the mindset, cultural practices.' Another African country, Malawi, is also demonstrating anti-corruption success. The director of the country's anti-corruption bureau, Alexius Nampota, also on the course, said his agency operated with independence and with resources that compared favourably with Hong Kong. 'Hong Kong puts in 0.4 per cent of the national budget and we put in 0.3 per cent,' he said. Nampota said the fact his agency was prosecuting former head of state Bakili Muluzi in a US$11 million aid-embezzlement case was evidence of its effectiveness. 'We have been able to seize quite a lot of assets,' he said. Malawi has a corruption-index ranking of 89, up from 115 last year. But if there are relative success stories, there are others closer to home that are not so positive. Comparing the Philippines with Tanzania and Nigeria, Paula Nunez, assistant special prosecutor with the Office of the Ombudsman in the Philippines, said resources were limited, at less than 0.01 per cent of the national budget - there are less than 40 anti-corruption staff to cover the country. Explaining that the Philippines' ranking had fallen from 121 in 2006, when she joined the Ombudsman's office, to 139 this year, Nunez said it had to be borne in mind there were many political 'controversies' during the period. In addition to limited resources there were challenges to pursuing corruption cases. 'It is said penalties are imposed inconsistently and if you are connected politically or wealthy or powerful you get more lenient treatment,' she told students. 'This is demonstrated by the lack of punishment for the Marcos family and the pardon for former president Estrada after his conviction for plunder.' Joseph Estrada was pardoned by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo just six weeks after being sentenced to life in prison. Nunez declined to be interviewed after the presentation, but the contrast between the Philippines and countries that have successfully fought corruption, such as Singapore (ranked third on the index) and Hong Kong (12th), was taken up by businessman and education philanthropist Dr Lee Shiu, chairman of the Lee Shiu Family Foundation, in a speech at the course's closing ceremony. 'Why is corruption so bad for society?' he asked. 'Let's take the Philippines and compare it with Hong Kong. The Philippines is a country full of natural resources. In the 1950s it was very rich and prosperous; on the other hand Hong Kong was in deep, dire trouble, struggling with more than a million refugees rushing in from China. Hong Kong was at the time weak economically, but today the picture is reversed. 'Hong Kong is very prosperous, while the Philippines is weak economically. Why? Over the years corrupt Philippine officials have made their place poverty-stricken. The Philippines, as a result of poverty today, sends more than 200,000 maids to Hong Kong to serve our families. How come a country endowed with natural resources cannot feed its own people? How come Hong Kong can take care of more than a million refugees for many years and yet remain so prosperous? The chief reason is the setting up of the Independent Commission Against Corruption. 'Hong Kong has been taught to fight corruption seriously. Because it has faced corruption it has integrity. People of the world trust Hong Kong to make their financial dealings, as a result it has become a great financial centre of Asia.' Lee said corruption used to be rife in Hong Kong, with driving instructors charging people to pass the exam and firemen even taking money to extinguish a blaze. All that changed with the setting up of the ICAC. So what did practising anti-corruption officials, already in the thick of the fight, learn from the course and the Hong Kong approach? Okoduwa, responsible for anti-corruption education strategy, said it was during a course discussion about the 'comprehensive approach' that she realised she needed to review her methodology. 'I had been struggling with my function in one regard, figuring out how best to continue to put forward education programmes to the public to try to change the attitudes of the Nigerian people. But then in one of the sessions it clicked that I might have been going about it the wrong way. I realised that attitude change doesn't just happen on its own, it has to be within an environment that encourages it, and to do that you have to have set mechanisms that direct behaviour in a particular way. 'It has to be education together with prevention and deterrence.' For Kwok, now in his seventh year overseeing the HKU Space course, the aim is to teach students the components of an effective strategy. 'We go through them one by one,' he said, 'And at the end of the day, theoretically, they should know how to run an anti-corruption agency, how to advise the president of a country.'