The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and some officials in all branches and at all levels of government frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Under a law that prohibits court cases from lasting longer than four years, politicians convicted in lower courts routinely avoided punishment by filing appeals and motions until the statute of limitations was reached. The World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators indicated corruption was a serious problem.
The Public Ministry, under the authority of the attorney general, has a dedicated unit of prosecutors to investigate and combat corruption. The ministry works closely with and initiates many investigations on the request of the General Auditor’s Office (GAO), which is responsible for auditing and inspecting the public finances, management, and operational procedures of government entities, department and municipal governments, state-owned companies, and other entities with government financial interests. The ministry’s specialized unit and the GAO generally collaborated with civil society, usually by following up on complaints of corruption brought forth by the press. Both agencies were sufficiently well funded and generally operated effectively.
The Executive Office’s auditor general also cooperates with the GAO and the Public Ministry in the investigation of corruption cases. The Solicitor General’s Office receives reports from the auditor general and GAO and files civil lawsuits on behalf of the state to recover monetary damages. The National Integrity System, a program dependent on the Executive Office, works with dozens of internal transparency units in several ministries, Customs, and the National Directorate for Government Procurement.
On November 28, the government created the National Anticorruption Secretariat, responsible for coordinating and monitoring the application of public policies in matters of transparency and the fight against corruption. It also is responsible for formulating strategies to prevent, investigate, and denounce acts of corruption, in coordination with other government entities. The institution is a part of the Executive Office.
On November 28, the Public Service Secretariat announced the entry into force of an ethics code for the executive branch. A Commission of Public Ethics will receive and judge ethics complaints. All public servants, including senior employees, are required to adhere to this code.
In November a lower court convicted former council member Francisco Yore to 30 months in prison for bribery. Prosecutor Arnaldo Giuzzio had charged Yore for soliciting a $34,000 bribe to favor an investment bank as the prime broker in a bond issuance in 2008.
On November 15, Deputy Sebastian Acha, of the Partido Patria Querida (Beloved Fatherland Party), denounced Governor Oscar Nunez (Colorado Party) and others, for the disappearance of $340,000 dollars to have been spent on the One Laptop Per Child educational program in the department of President Hayes. On November 23, a GAO audit confirmed the amount was missing and advised the General Prosecutor’s Office to open a criminal investigation.
The constitution requires all public employees, including elected officials and employees of independent government entities, to disclose their income and assets at least 15 days after taking office or being appointed and again 15 days after finishing their term or assignment. The financial disclosure form does not require disclosure of assets and income of spouses and dependent children and does not require officials to file periodically when changes occur in their holdings.
The law mandates that the GAO monitor and verify disclosures, but these were not made available to the public. The GAO can make public the income and asset disclosures only at the request of the executive branch, Congress, General Prosecutor’s Office, or judicial authorities. There are no fines or administrative sanctions for noncompliance. The General Prosecutor’s Office occasionally opened investigations for inconsistencies in the same.
Filings often were late, incomplete, or misleading. In addition, many simply did not disclose their finances and engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, using political immunity to avoid prosecution. Pursuant to a 2010 ministerial directive, all police officers must file reports of net worth every three years and when they are eligible for promotion. There were no reports on compliance with this directive.
The GAO reported that 14 former senior advisers and ministers of President Lugo’s government did not file their financial disclosure forms after they left office in June. No sanctions were levied against them. Congressional representatives questioned discrepancies in the financial disclosure form of President Franco, who stated there was an error in the appraisal of his house and asked the GAO to audit his filing prior to its amendment.
Corruption in the security forces continued. In January the Prosecutor’s Office in Curuguaty, Canindeyu, charged antinarcotics police officers Roque Jara Irala and Pedro Lezcano Benitez with aggravated extortion. According to the charges, Jara and Lezcano intercepted the car of Vicente Salinas and Carlos Cantero, detained the two individuals, and pressured them to pay a bribe of 10 million guaranies ($2,200) in exchange for not being arrested for possession of drugs, which Jara allegedly planted in Salinas’s vehicle. Relatives contacted the Prosecutor’s Office, which organized a successful sting operation. Subsequently, the National Police commander ordered investigation and closure of the antinarcotics police office in Curuguaty.
On July 29, a group of 20 police officers stormed the offices of Guardian S.A., a private security and armored car company, where they held the guards at gunpoint and stole $1,167,000. Prosecutors arrested and charged five police officers: Adan García, Braulio Machado, Ramon Chena, Patricio Garcia, and Oscar Encina. (Machado is the nephew of a former police commander, Viviano Machado.) Civilians Diego Martínez and Ramon Lopez also were arrested. The fugitive leader of the group was Jose Lopez; other fugitives were Jose Aguiar, Nelson Fernandez, Adriano Duarte, Hugo Mereles, and Ezequiel Romero.
Although the constitution provides for overall public access to government information, in practice citizens and noncitizens, including foreign media, had limited access to government information. There is an absence of a regulatory law to implement effectively the constitutional guarantee. There is no legal framework regarding processing times, fees, criminal or administrative sanctions for noncompliance, appeals mechanism for reviews of disclosure denials, or lists of exceptions outlining the grounds for nondisclosure. Insufficient infrastructure and determined efforts to hide corruption hindered access, although the government improved transparency by publishing information publicly via the Internet.
Senator Jorge Oviedo Matto, president of the Senate, issued an internal resolution in December 2011 prohibiting employees from sharing information with the media without his authorization. On October 19, ABC Color requested that Oviedo Matto release information from 2008 to 2012 on the senators’ attendance record to regular and committee sessions, number of draft bills presented, number of trips undertaken, amounts received for travel per diem, and fuel subsidies. Oviedo Matto replied that the information was available on the Senate Web site. On November 12, ABC Color filed a writ of constitutional remedy requesting full access to the information because the data on the Web site was incomplete. On November 28, Judge Ruben Ayala Brun denied the request, explaining, “He had to believe Oviedo Matto’s word” and that “if the information on the Web site was misleading or incomplete, a prosecutor needed to intervene.” Oviedo Matto eventually released some of the requested information.