The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The World Bank’s most recent Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a severe problem. The government publicly acknowledged corruption was a problem.
Civil servants often demanded bribes to provide public services. A poorly financed and trained law enforcement system and weak administrative controls compounded corruption. Other underlying causes included poverty; low salaries; the politicization of the public service; the influence of traditional kinship, ethnic, and family ties on decision making; a culture of impunity; and a lack of civic education.
On February 15, the Transitional Constitutional Council ruled that former parliamentarian Amadou Oumarou Mainassara had won two government contracts, worth 10.8 billion CFA ($21.6 million), while still a member of the National Assembly, in violation of the constitution. Mainassara resigned from the National Assembly but had not been charged by year’s end. The government cancelled the contract in question.
On April 2, the National Assembly voted to lift the parliamentary immunity of eight legislators involved in corruption cases. Parliamentarian Zakou Djibo resigned before his immunity was lifted. None of the legislators were criminally charged.
Also on April 2, President Issoufou removed three ministers implicated in corruption scandals. Minister of Finance Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou and Minister of Transport Kalla Hanouraou were involved in a government contract illegally awarded to parliamentarian Amadou Oumarou Mainassara. Minister of Equipment Salami Maimouna Almou reportedly assigned a political crony to the national Council of Transport Users in Cotonou, Benin. None were criminally charged or had any action taken against them.
The HALCIA forwarded several corruption cases to the Ministry of Justice, including one that led to the March 2 arrest of 14 persons, some of them customs officials. When a judge released the customs officials, he was censured by the High Council of the Magistracy, a judicial oversight body headed by the president.
On February 14, the Court of Appeals dismissed embezzlement charges from a 2010 case against opposition leader Seini Oumarou, former minister of commerce Sala Habi, and Ministry of Commerce officials Amadou Soumana Gouro and Addo Mahamane.
From January to May, the government’s new anticorruption hotline generated 132 cases investigated by the Ministry of Justice, including several against judges. The Ministry of Justice submitted its findings to state prosecutors to determine the appropriate course of action.
The State Inspectorate, the HALCIA, and the courts are responsible for combating government corruption. The State Audit Court regulates public finances and provides for transparency in the management of public funds. The court oversees the management of all government agencies and development projects funded by external resources, as well as the implementation of the budget. It also oversees the accounts of political parties and government officials’ statements of personal assets submitted to the Constitutional Court. If requested by the National Assembly, the State Audit Court may conduct investigations regarding the implementation of public revenues and expenses. The court also has authority to sanction any fraud in the management of public resources.
The HALCIA, under the oversight of the President’s Office, is charged with monitoring the government’s anticorruption programs; it included government, private sector, and civil society representatives. On September 28, the HALCIA began the process of elaboration for a National Anti-Corruption Strategy that would enlist assistance from the World Bank and European Union, among others.
The constitution requires the president of the republic, presidents of other government institutions, and cabinet members to submit written statements of their personal property and other assets to the Constitutional Court upon assuming office, and this occurred in practice. The requirement does not apply to spouses and children. The disclosure includes financial and material assets. These statements are to be updated annually and at the end of an individual’s tenure. Initial statements and updates are published in the National Register and the press. Copies of the statements are forwarded to the government’s fiscal services. Any discrepancies between the initial and the updated statements must be explained. The Constitutional Court has authority to assess discrepancies. The designated officials are not allowed to purchase or rent, by themselves or through other parties, any government-owned property or to bid for government contracts. The HALCIA and the State Inspectorate have investigative roles, with the State Inspectorate being more administrative.
The law provides for access to public information and administrative documents, and this occurred in practice; many documents could also be obtained from individual ministries and the National Archives. The law provides a list of “communicable” and “noncommunicable” documents and defines modalities for access to them as well as related costs. If access to an official document is denied, officials are required to notify the requestor in writing and provide the legal grounds for denial. The law provides an appeal mechanism for review through the National Mediator; legal complaints are referred to the Administrative Court. It also provides for sanctions against agencies, individual civil servants, and users for noncompliance.