The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not always implement the law effectively, and some officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.
Corruption continued at all levels of society. Grand corruption, particularly in the key mining sector, was perceived to be the most serious threat to economic and political stability due to its potential to undermine public confidence in government. Several factors contributed to corruption, including conflicts of interest, lack of transparency, lack of access to information, an inadequate civil service system, limited political will to reform in accordance with the law, and weak government control of key institutions.
The country has taken some steps to address the issue, including laws requiring reporting of holdings and outside sources of income for all civil servants; implementation of a leadership change at the Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC), which has led to more corruption investigations, arrests, and trials; and creation of other agencies also dedicated to anticorruption. While the IAAC generally handles high-level corruption cases, the Criminal Police Department and Prosecutor’s Office handle various types of corruption cases as well as assist the IAAC with investigations and prosecutions. Although the IAAC has a relatively large budget and broad mandate, public faith in the agency was low and it was not viewed as politically impartial. Moreover, when the agency launched corruption investigations, the results of the investigations and subsequent court proceedings were not always made public.
In December the Supreme Court sentenced former president Nambaryn Enkhbayar on appeal to serve two-and-a-half years in prison on fraud and corruption charges. Enkhbayar’s legal team, family members, and supporters alleged judicial bias and procedural inconsistencies involving investigative procedures, access to witnesses, and inadequate preparation time for the defense. Observers of the four postponement hearings and trials, which were televised and open to the public, generally found the process in compliance with the law.
Although the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, political supporters, and critics have spoken out on Enkhbayar’s behalf and viewed the case as politically motivated, the current government and many ordinary citizens saw the case as part of a necessary effort to address corruption. As of the end the year, the final resolution of the case remained unclear, as it may be appealed for a hearing before a nine-justice panel of the Supreme Court.
The criminal code proscribes the acceptance of bribes by officials and provides for fines or imprisonment of up to five years. It also outlaws offering bribes to government officials. NGOs initially complained the prosecution of the official soliciting the bribe and the person paying it led to less reporting of bribery but reported the problem was somewhat alleviated after the government began granting limited immunity for those paying smaller bribes.
In May the Conflict of Interest Law, which had been initiated by parliament, came into effect. The law aims to prevent conflicts of interest between official duties and private interests of those in public service roles. It also aims to regulate and monitor conflicts of interest to ensure that officials act in the public interest and that transparency and confidence in public services are maintained. The law requires candidates for public office to submit financial statements and questionnaires on personal business interests in order to be eligible to run.
Public officials must file a private interest declaration within 30 days of appointment or election into office and annually during their term of public service. The Conflict of Interest Law provides that such declarations shall be accessible to the public and prescribes a range of administrative sanctions and disciplinary actions from fines to removal from office in the event of a violation. According to the IAAC, approximately 46,000 public officials had submitted their Private Interest and Asset and Income Declarations as of September 18. However, it remains to be seen if the IAAC will execute the law in an impartial and unbiased manner, as critics have contended political bias in the selection of cases to pursue.
The IAAC declared that nearly all of the most senior officials complied with the requirement to declare their assets and income (and those of relatives, including spouses, parents, children, and live-in siblings). The agency is also required to review the asset declarations of public servants, including police officers and members of the military, and this was carried out in practice.
Members of parliament are immune from prosecution during their tenure, which prevented a number of allegations of corruption from going to trial. According to observers, while corruption-related prosecutions increased in number, cases were often suspected of being politically motivated. Over the past year, the IAAC reported that there were 151 investigations, of which 37 resulted in conviction and 29 in dismissal. Of the remaining cases, 24 were referred to other agencies, 19 were merged with other criminal cases, and three were dropped before going to trial.
Additionally, 89 government officials were subject to administrative penalties for violations such as misreporting income and asset statements and failure to disclose conflicts of interest: 40 officials received warnings, 43 officials were publicly rebuked with salary reductions for one to six months, and the rest were discharged.
In June 2011 parliament passed the Law on Information Transparency and Right to Information, which obliges public institutions to make information on activities, budget and finance, human resources, and procurement available to the public while providing for the right of citizens to access this public information. NGOs asserted that the law is important due to its promotion of freedom of expression and media and its potential to strengthen transparent governance. However, the law’s promotion and implementation was reportedly lacking.
According to NGO sources, the far-reaching State Secrets Law inhibited freedom of information and government transparency while at the same time undermining accountability. The law also hindered citizen participation in policy discussions and government oversight.