The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, impunity prevented effective implementation. Some officials in all branches and at all levels of government frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and cases typically spend years in the courts without any satisfactory resolution. 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.
Corruption: The Attorney General’s Office 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 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.
As of October the JEM had removed seven judges and prosecutors, reprimanded four others, and cancelled three proceedings due to magistrate resignations. In 2012 the JEM removed 12 judges and prosecutors and sanctioned six others, and one judge resigned before the completion of proceedings against him.
As of September 19, the GAO issued 24 reports of crimes against state assets in 2013, totaling Gs. 6.67 million ($1,480). The largest corruption cases involved Gs. 1.3 billion ($289,000) in the National Industry of Cement for the acquisition of 25,000 tons of imported plaster; Gs. 1.17 billion ($260,400) in the National Secretariat for Animal Health and Quality for the construction of offices; Gs. 1 billion ($222,200) in the National Secretariat of Social Assistance regarding social funds programmed for construction of homes and land titling; and Gs. 700 million ($155,500) in the National Secretariat for Homes regarding its audit of the secretariat’s annual budget. The GAO delivered its findings to the Prosecutor’s Office, Senate, Chamber of Deputies, Presidency, and Solicitor General’s Office. The Prosecutor’s Office opened investigations in some cases, and the investigations were pending at year’s end.
In early September media reports disclosed that 62 government entities, including the General Prosecutor’s Office, Supreme Court, Chamber of Deputies, JEM, municipalities of Asuncion and Ciudad del Este, and a dozen other national and local agencies filed lawsuits questioning the GAO’s authority to audit their balances. The constitution mandates that the GAO audit all the balances of government institutions, including local government entities, and the legislative and judicial branches. The GAO has not audited the Supreme Court since 2004. These government entities did not comply with legal requirements to submit audit information to the GAO. Instead, the Supreme Court provided the required information to its Administrative Court or to the General Prosecutor’s Office’s Administrative Court, both of which were understaffed and not trained to perform GAO perform audits.
The National Anticorruption Secretariat, created in November 2012, is responsible for coordinating and monitoring the application of public policies in matters of transparency and 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.
In addition, an ethics code for the executive branch entered into force in November 2012. A Commission of Public Ethics receives and judges ethics complaints. All public servants, including senior employees, are required to adhere to this code.
In November 2012 legislators denounced Governor Oscar Venancio Nunez Gimenez (Colorado Party) and others for the misappropriation of Gs. 1.5 billion ($333,300) for the One Laptop Per Child educational program in the department of Presidente Hayes. A GAO audit published in February 21 confirmed the amount was missing and advised the General Prosecutor’s Office to open a criminal investigation. The GAO audit also confirmed several financial irregularities, amounting to Gs. 800 million ($177,800), during Nunez’ term between 2008 and 2013. In April Oscar Nunez was elected deputy for the department of Presidente Hayes, conferring upon him parliamentary immunity from prosecution. The Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation, and the case was pending at year’s end.
Whistleblower Protection: There is no specific legislation outlining whistleblower protections, but the GAO’s Citizen Monitoring Office has procedures in place to receive anonymous citizen complaints against corruption. A September 21 presidential decree also outlines provisions for guaranteeing the anonymity of citizen whistleblowers in complaints against public employees.
Financial Disclosure: 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. Modification of the financial disclosure form will require the disclosure of assets and income of spouses and dependent children starting in January 2014, but the modifications do not require officials to file periodically when changes occur in their holdings.
The law mandates that the GAO monitor and verify disclosures, but the law does not allow these to be 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. The General Prosecutor’s Office occasionally opened investigations for inconsistencies in the disclosures.
On October 8, the executive branch signed a law that bars public employees from government positions for up to 10 years for failure to comply with financial disclosures and imposes monetary fines of up to Gs. 19.1 million ($4,240). The new law obligates the GAO to monitor all disclosures.
Filings often were late, incomplete, or misleading. In addition, many simply did not disclose their finances. Legislators were known to ignore the law with impunity, using political immunity to avoid investigation or 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.
President Franco submitted his financial disclosure form on time after his term ended on August 15. Several outgoing members of Franco’s administration did not file timely financial disclosure reports.
Following the inauguration of the new government, the president, vice president, the 10 ministers of the executive branch and 22 other minister-rank and high-ranking employees of the Cartes administration filed their financial disclosure forms in compliance with the constitution. As of September 6, the GAO reported that six governors had not filed their financial disclosure forms, while 11 others presented them on time.
Public Access to Information: Although the constitution provides for overall public access to government information, citizens and noncitizens, including foreign media, had limited access to government information. There is no law to implement effectively the constitutional guarantee, nor does any legal framework exist 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 systemic incentives to hide corruption hindered access, although the executive branch improved transparency by publishing information publicly via the internet.
In late August the Ultima Hora newspaper requested that the Chamber of Deputies’ president, Bartolome Ramirez, publicly disclose the list of names, rank, and salary of all the employees working for the Chamber of Deputies, a request echoed by Deputies Dionisio Amarilla and Edgar Acosta on September 13. Subsequently much of this information was leaked to the press. It indicated that hundreds of public employees in the Chamber of Deputies acquired their positions through nepotism and received lavish salaries and multiple compensatory bonuses. Some collected multiple salaries, claiming that they performed more than one job simultaneously.
On October 5, the Supreme Court ruled that the municipality of San Lorenzo was required to release information regarding its public employees. Soon afterwards the judicial branch, the presidency, and almost all government ministries disclosed information on their public employees and their salaries, bonuses, and extraordinary compensation. In late October the Chamber of Deputies and Senate finally disclosed information on the salary and bonus compensations of congressional employees. At year’s end 39 government institutions, including ministries, state-owned companies, and local and state entities had disclosed information on the names of their employees and their salaries.