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Afghanistan

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials. The government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Reports indicated corruption was endemic throughout society, and flows of money from the military, international donors, and the drug trade continued to exacerbate the problem. Local businessmen complained government contracts were routinely steered to companies that paid a bribe or had family or other connections to a contracting official.

According to prisoners and local NGOs, corruption was widespread across the justice system, particularly in connection with the prosecution of criminal cases and in arranging release from prison. There were reports officials received unauthorized payments in exchange for reducing prison sentences, halting investigations, or outright dismissing charges.

Freedom House reported inadequately trained judges and extensive corruption in the judiciary, with judges and lawyers often subject to threats and bribes from local leaders or armed groups.

During the year there were reports of “land grabbing” by both private and public actors. Most commonly, businesses illegally obtained property deeds from corrupt officials and sold the deeds to unsuspecting prospective homeowners who were later prosecuted. Other reports indicated government officials confiscated land without compensation with the intent to exchange it for contracts or political favors. There were reports provincial governments illegally confiscated land without due process or compensation in order to build public facilities.

Corruption: The Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC) reported that since its inception in 2016 to mid-September, the ACJC tried 281 defendants in 76 cases before its trial chamber and 214 defendants in 68 cases before its appellate chamber. Of cases tried in the trial chamber, 199 were sentenced to imprisonment, 23 were fined, and 59 acquitted. Of cases tried in the appellate chamber, 172 were sentenced to imprisonment, 18 were fined, and 24 were acquitted. In January the ACJC appellate court resentenced several former election officials to two and one-half years in prison each, cutting their earlier prison terms by half.

There were reports of political patronage in the government’s COVID-19 response efforts, including accusations of embezzlement and theft of medical equipment by government authorities. On June 22, a media report alleged that 32 ventilators were embezzled from the Ministry of Public Health and subsequently smuggled to Pakistan for a profit. Media reported that on August 24 former minister of public health Ferozuddin Feroz and several former and current deputy ministers were referred to the Attorney General’s Office for suspected misappropriation of funds designated to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Media also reported that in October the governor of Herat Province, the mayor of Herat city, three members of the provincial council, and 17 other top provincial officials were accused of embezzling approximately 20 million afghanis ($260,000) of government funding of COVID-19 response activities. According to ACJC prosecutors, the cases against these officials were sent to the ACJC primary court, but the court sent the case back to the prosecution office to fill investigative gaps. The suspects were released on bail.

Violent attacks by insurgents against judges, prosecutors, and prison officials during the year made members of the judicial sector increasingly fearful in carrying out their duties. According to government and media reports, since 2015 more than 300 judges, prosecutors, prison personnel, and other justice workers were killed, injured, or abducted. During the year, five judges and one administrative official were killed and two judges were abducted. Justice professionals came under threat or attack for pursuing certain cases–particularly corruption or abuse-of-power cases–against politically or economically powerful individuals.

According to various reports, many government officials, including district or provincial governors, ambassadors, and deputy ministers, were suborned. Government officials with reported involvement in corruption, the drug trade, or records of human rights abuses reportedly continued to receive executive appointments and served with relative impunity. On February 6, the Ministry of Interior announced it had arrested five police officers, including Ahmad Ahmadi, the Kabul counternarcotics chief, for involvement in drug trafficking.

On August 17, the primary court of the ACJC convicted a former official of the National Office of Norms and Standards of accepting a bribe of $100,000 from an unidentified company. The court sentenced the former official to 16 years’ imprisonment, a $100,000 fine (the amount of the bribe), as well as an additional fine of 60,000 afghanis ($765) for carrying a firearm without a permit.

There were allegations of widespread corruption and abuse of power by officers at the Ministry of Interior. Provincial police reportedly extorted civilians at checkpoints and received kickbacks from the drug trade. Police reportedly demanded bribes from civilians to gain release from prison or avoid arrest. Senior Interior Ministry officials also refused to sign the execution of arrest warrants.

Financial Disclosure: A 2017 legislative decree established the Administration on Registration and Assets of Government Officials and Employees (Registration Administration) under the Administrative Office of the President. All government officials, employees, and elected officials are required to declare their assets. The Registration Administration was responsible for collecting, verifying, and publishing information from high-ranking government officials. Under the law all government officials and employees must submit financial disclosures on all sources and levels of personal income for themselves and their immediate family annually and when they assume or leave office. Individuals who do not submit forms or are late in submission are subject to suspension of employment, salary, and travel bans. The Attorney General’s Office imposed travel bans on individuals who did not submit their forms; however, the bans were not regularly enforced, especially for high-level officials. For instance, although the website of the Administrative Office of the President showed several high-ranking government officials failed to register their assets, it was public knowledge they frequently travelled internationally. Employment and salary suspensions were not imposed.

As of July 22, the deadline for asset registration, the Registration Administration successfully registered assets of more than 18,000 government employees. Verification of assets was slow and problematic for the administration due to lack of organized systems in some government offices. Public outreach by the Registration Administration allowed civil society and private citizens the opportunity to comment on individual declarations.

Equatorial Guinea

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

While the law provides severe criminal penalties for official corruption, the government did not effectively implement the law. Officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption, as the president and members of his inner circle continued to amass personal fortunes from the revenues associated with monopolies on all domestic commercial ventures, as well as timber and oil exports. Corruption at all levels of government was a severe problem.

According to Freedom House, the budget process was “opaque.” The government continued to improve fiscal transparency, including auditing state-owned enterprises and public debt using international accounting firms and publishing data on public-sector debt in the budget.

In July authorities arrested 13 officials of the treasury for allegedly stealing more than $500,000. As of November all awaited trial. In September authorities removed the minister and top leadership at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, and Environment for corruption because they did not stop illegal logging on the mainland.

Financial Disclosure: The constitution and law require public officials to declare their assets to the National Commission on Public Ethics, although no declarations were made public. The government did not effectively enforce the law. There are no formal procedures to control submission of asset disclosures and no penalties for noncompliance. In July the government ordered officials to declare their assets, effectively notifying the public that many public officials did not comply with the law.

Eritrea

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: Persons seeking executive or judicial services sometimes reported they obtained services more easily after paying a “gift” or bribe. Patronage, cronyism, and petty corruption within the executive branch were based largely on family connections and used to facilitate access to social benefits. Judicial corruption was a problem, and authorities generally did not prosecute acts such as property seizure by military or security officials or those seen as being in favor with the government.

There were reports of police corruption. Police occasionally used their influence to facilitate the release from prison of friends and family members.

Financial Disclosure: The law does not subject public officials to financial disclosure.

Fiji

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption.

Corruption: The Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption (hereafter “corruption commission”) reports directly to the president and investigates public agencies and officials, including police. Government measures to combat corruption within the bureaucracy, including corruption commission public service announcements encouraging citizens to report corrupt government activities, had some effect on systemic corruption. Media published articles on corruption commission investigations of abuse of office, and anonymous blogs reported on some government corruption.

The government adequately funded the corruption commission, but some observers questioned its independence and viewed some of its high-profile prosecutions as politically motivated.

In August the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions charged Talib Khan, director of the police internal affairs division, with abuse of office. Khan allegedly directed the unlawful arrest of an unnamed person in 2017. In June a policewoman was charged with witness tampering in the case of the four officers suspected of throwing a curfew violator from a bridge (see section 1.c.).

Corruption cases often proceeded slowly. In June the appeals trial of former corrections chief Lieutenant Colonel Ifereimi Vasu began. Authorities dismissed him in 2015 for abuse of office related to his alleged misuse of a prison minimart. The prosecution appealed his 2019 acquittal.

Financial Disclosure: No law requires income and asset disclosure by appointed or elected officials. The law, however, requires financial disclosure by party officials and candidates running for office.

Gabon

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. According to media and NGOs, officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Some police were inefficient and corrupt. There were reports of police, gendarmes, and military members seeking bribes to supplement their salaries, often while stopping vehicles at legal roadblocks to check vehicle registration and identity documents. In July taxi drivers demonstrated to protest police harassment, including exacting bribes.

According to reports from the African immigrant community, in order to exact bribes, police and other security force members often detained and falsely accused noncitizen Africans of lacking valid resident permits or identification documents.

In 2016 the government launched an anticorruption campaign. A number of former officials, including a vice president, ministers, and agency directors, were arrested on corruption charges. The former minister of economy and presidential advisor Magloire Ngambia and former minister of petroleum and hydrocarbons Etienne Dieudonne Ngoubou were arrested and charged with corruption. In 2018 Ngoubou was released on bail; he had yet to be tried by year’s end. On September 24, Ngambia was convicted of embezzlement of public funds. He was fined and sentenced to time served in pretrial detention.

Corruption: There were numerous reports of corruption by government officials during the year. For example, in September Mayor Leandre Nzue of Libreville and several city officials were arrested and charged with embezzlement and money laundering. Other government officials charged with corruption included former presidential chief of staff Brice Laccruche, several former ministers, and the director general of the Merchant Marine. None had been tried by year’s end.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires executive-level civil servants and civil servants who manage budgets to disclose their financial assets to the National Commission against Illicit Enrichment within three months of assuming office. Most officials complied, but some attempted to withhold information. The government did not make these declarations available to the public. There are administrative sanctions for noncompliance, but authorities did not provide information regarding enforcement.

Gambia

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by government officials, and the government generally implemented the law.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires income and asset disclosure statements from both appointed and elected public officials; however, it does not stipulate sanctions for noncompliance. No government agency is mandated to monitor and verify financial disclosures. Declarations are not released to the public.

Guinea

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption, but the government but did not implement the law effectively. There were multiple allegations of corrupt practices by public officials that went unpunished.

Corruption: Authorities prosecuted very few cases, and even fewer resulted in convictions. Allegations of corruption ranged from low-level functionaries and managers of state enterprises to ministers and the presidency. Officials allegedly diverted public funds for private use or for illegitimate public uses, such as buying expensive vehicles for government workers. Land sales and business contracts generally lacked transparency.

In August the public prosecutor’s office announced the results of an investigation into the embezzlement of more than $51 million in public funds by two senior civil servants working for the Regulatory Authority for Posts and Telecommunications. The two civil servants, who were arrested and held pending prosecution, created fake service delivery invoices dating back to 2010 for a project managing incoming international calls.

Business leaders asserted regulatory procedures were opaque and facilitated corruption.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials are required to file a nonpublic financial disclosure statement, but this requirement was not universally respected. There are sanctions for nondisclosure, but they were not applied.

Guinea-Bissau

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties of one month to 10 years in prison for corruption by officials. The government did not implement the law effectively, and officials in all branches and on all levels of government engaged in corrupt and nontransparent practices with impunity.

Corruption: Members of the military and civilian administration reportedly trafficked in drugs and assisted international drug cartels by providing access to the country and its transportation infrastructure. For example, a Mexican citizen and a Bissau-Guinean remained at large despite having been convicted and sentenced to prison on January 7, reportedly because of assistance from members of the government. In September the Judicial Police arrested the former migration services director for interference in a drug raid in the International Airport Osvaldo Vieira in March. He was at home awaiting trial. Since taking office President Sissoco has dismissed two of the leading figures in the fight against drug trafficking, former minister of justice Rute Monteiro and Judicial Police director Filomena Mendes Lopes. Monteiro fled the country, citing death threats. Sissoco and other members of the government stated their desire to eliminate drug trafficking, but the government did not prosecute cases during the year.

Some military and civilian authorities were also complicit in trafficking in illegally cut timber. In November the Judicial Police seized a large quantity of logs cut illegally in the country’s national forest. The timber had been cut by a company in which Prime Minister Nuno Nabiam allegedly had financial interests. In December the Judicial Police requested that the Prosecutor’s Office question the prime minister regarding his participation in illegal logging and sale of timber. The interior minister and National Guard commander were also reportedly under investigation. As of year’s end, the Prosecutor’s Office had not filed charges.

Financial Disclosure: By law high-level public officials are required to disclose their personal finances before the Court of Audits, and these disclosures are to be made public. The court has no authority to enforce compliance, and penalties are not specified for noncompliance. By year’s end no public officials had disclosed their personal finances.

Honduras

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but authorities did not implement the law effectively, and officials continued to engage in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. The government took steps to address corruption at high levels in government agencies, including arresting and charging members of congress, judges, prosecutors, sitting and former senior officials, mayors and other local authorities, and police officers. Anticorruption efforts remained an area of concern, as did the government’s ability to protect justice sector officials, such as prosecutors and judges.

Following months of negotiation, the government and the OAS did not reach an agreement to maintain the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), and its mandate expired in January. The Public Ministry created a new anticorruption unit, the Special Prosecution Unit against Corruption Networks, which is charged with pursuing MACCIH legacy corruption cases.

Corruption: On March 13, the Supreme Court of Justice ordered a new trial for former first lady Rosa Elena Bonilla de Lobo, spouse of former president Porfirio Lobo, who was convicted in August 2019 of fraud and misappropriation of public funds and sentenced to 58 years in prison. The Supreme Court of Justice cited the presence of MACCIH personnel during Public Ministry investigations, including in the execution of search warrants in violation of the law. A specialized anticorruption sentencing tribunal ordered her release from pretrial detention on July 23. As of September no new trial date had been set. On August 5, an appeals court dismissed charges against 22 defendants indicted in the so-called Pandora case, a 2013 scheme that allegedly funneled 289.4 million lempiras ($12 million) in government agricultural funds to political campaigns. The appeals court ruled the cases of former agriculture minister Jacobo Regalado and three members of his staff should proceed to trial.

During the year the National Anticorruption Council reported numerous irregularities in the purchase of emergency medical supplies during the pandemic. The council presented 11 reports in a series called, Corruption in the Times of COVID-19. The reports alleged illicit gains of more than 1.64 billion lempiras ($68 million) by government officials in the purchase of medical supplies. Invest-H, the agency in charge of purchasing medical supplies during the pandemic, purchased seven mobile hospitals for 1.13 billion lempiras ($47 million), more than 289.4 million lempiras ($12 million) above the manufacturer’s quoted price. The director of Invest-H, Marco Antonio Bogran Corrales, resigned from his position in July and was indicted in October on two corruption charges for embezzling an estimated 1.3 million lempiras ($54,000) in public funds and funneling a contract for mobile hospitals to his uncle. Authorities arrested Bogran on October 5 and released him on October 8 on bail pending trial. The director of the national disaster management agency, Gabriel Rubi, was removed from his position in April.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials are subject to a financial disclosure law but did not always comply. The law mandates that the Supreme Auditing Tribunal monitor and verify disclosures. The tribunal published its reports on its website and cited the names of public officials who did not comply with the disclosure law.

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