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Kazakhstan

9. Corruption

Kazakhstan’s rating in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index is 37/100, where 100 is very clean and 0 is highly corrupt. According to Transparency International, the January civil unrest underscored the dangers of ignoring corruption. The Anti-Corruption Agency has focused on sectors like agriculture and healthcare, leaving out the largest industries. President Tokayev announced in January that the government would do more to combat corruption. Within months, several investigations began against wealthy and powerful individuals, including relatives of First President Nazarbayev.

According to the State Department’s Human Rights Report, the government selectively prosecuted officials who committed abuses, especially in high-profile corruption cases. Nonetheless, corruption remained widespread, and impunity existed for many in positions of authority as well as for those connected to law enforcement entities. The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. Corruption was widespread in the executive branch, law enforcement agencies, local government administrations, the education system, and the judiciary, according to human rights NGOs. Journalists and advocates for fiscal transparency report frequent harassment and administrative pressure.

The Criminal Code imposes criminal liability and punishment for corruption, forbids suspended sentences for corruption-related crimes, and provides for lifelong bans on employment in the civil service with mandatory forfeiture of title, rank, grade, and state awards for those convicted of corruption-related crimes. The Law on Public Service mandates public servants adhere to rule of law principles including anti-corruption and professionalism of civil service. However, the Law on the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan—Leader of the Nation establishes blanket immunity for First President Nursultan Nazarbayev and members of his household from arrest, detention, search, or interrogation.

Kazakhstan’s Anti-Corruption Agency prepares an annual report on countering corruption. Kazakhstan ratified the UN Convention against Corruption. It participates in the Istanbul Anti-Corruption Action Plan of the OECD Anti-Corruption Network, the International Association of Anti-Corruption Agencies, and the International Counter-Corruption Council of CIS member-states. Kazakhstan is a member of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).

Corruption continues to be observed in nearly all sectors, including extractive industries, infrastructure projects, state procurements, and banking. The International Finance Corporation’s Enterprise Survey for Kazakhstan, conducted in 2019 with over 1,400 small, medium, and large enterprises, found that 12 percent of respondents had experienced at least one bribe payment request across six different transactions including paying taxes, obtaining permits or licenses, and obtaining utility connections.

Kyrgyz Republic

9. Corruption

Corruption remains a serious problem at all levels of Kyrgyz society and in all sectors of the economy.  All companies are recommended to establish internal codes of conduct, above all, to prohibit the bribery of public officials. There are laws criminalizing the giving and accepting of bribes, establishing penalties ranging from a small administrative fine to a prison sentence. However, the government’s enforcement of anti-corruption legislation has been notoriously uneven and often politically motivated.

According to Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index, the Kyrgyz Republic ranked 144 out of 180 countries with a score of 27 out of 100 – a lower ranking than 2020 (124) and below the global average score of 43. Kyrgyz politicians and citizens alike are aware of the systemic corruption, but the problem has been difficult to fight. Moreover, many in the Kyrgyz Republic view paying of bribes as the most efficient way to receive government assistance and many, albeit indirectly, gain benefits from corrupt practices. The Kyrgyz Republic is a signatory of the UN Anticorruption Convention but is not party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Since 2020, the State Committee on National Security (GKNB) has arrested and detained dozens of public figures including former ministers and current and former members of parliament on suspicion of corruption, most of whom were released after paying a fine. In 2021, the government launched an extensive corruption investigation against former government officials involved in past deals with Centerra Gold related to the Kumtor gold mine. The investigation is ongoing. In recent years, including in 2022, anti-corruption campaigners and Kyrgyz journalists involved in investigating corruption have been subject to intimidation and physical assault, as well as detention on unrelated charges. Such incidents are rarely investigated thoroughly by law enforcement.

In October 2020, the government instituted a policy of “economic amnesty” for corruption, if the perpetrator returns stolen assets. The legality of such amnesty has been disputed by international experts, and a number of high-profile arrests have resulted in swift release following payment of fines. The government is still considering legislation to legalize illicit assets:  a working group is currently developing draft laws that would allow individuals to avoid criminal liability for any assets they declare to the government, order the destruction of any financial disclosure statements filed in the past, and end publication of future financial disclosure statements.

President Japarov established the Anti-Corruption Business Council by decree in July 2021, to develop a strategy and action plan to institute government-wide policies to combat systemic corruption (still in draft form as of March 18, 2021). The President is the Chair of the Council and Nuripa Mukanova is the Secretary General. Its membership is comprised of government officials, business associations, representatives from the diplomatic community, NGOs, and development partners.

U.S. companies seeking to do business in the Kyrgyz Republic, regardless of their size, should assess the business climate in the relevant sector in which they will be operating or investing, and conduct due diligence to ensure full compliance with measures to prevent and detect corruption, including bribery. U.S. individuals and firms operating or investing in foreign markets should take the time to become familiar with the relevant anticorruption laws of both the Kyrgyz Republic and the United States in order to properly comply with them, and where appropriate, should seek the advice of legal counsel.

Tajikistan

9. Corruption

Tajikistan has enacted anti-corruption legislation, but enforcement is politically motivated, and generally ineffective in combating corruption of public officials.  Amendments to the criminal code in 2016 allow individuals convicted of bribery-related crimes to avoid prison in return for payment of fines (roughly $25/day they would have served in prison).

Tajikistan’s laws provide conditions to counter conflict of interest in awarding contracts.  The Tajik government does not require private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials.  Tajikistan became a signatory to the UN’s Anticorruption Convention in 2006.  Tajikistan is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.  Tajik authorities do not provide protection to NGOs involved in investigating corruption.

U.S. firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to investment and have reported instances of corruption in government procurement, awards of licenses and concessions, dispute settlements, regulations, customs, and taxation.

Turkmenistan

9. Corruption

There is no single specifically designated government agency responsible for combating corruption. In June 2017, Turkmenistan set up the State Service for Combating Economic Crimes (SSCEC) to investigate officials and state-owned enterprises on corruption charges. SSCEC was later terminated by the President.

There is no independent corruption watchdog organization.

Anti-corruption laws are not generally enforced, and endemic corruption remains a problem. Formally, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (including the police), the Ministry of National Security, and the General Prosecutor’s Office are responsible for combating corruption. President Berdimuhamedov has publicly stated that corruption will not be tolerated.

In 2021, Transparency International ranked Turkmenistan 169 among 180 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index. Foreign firms have identified widespread government corruption, including in the form of bribe seeking, as an obstacle to investment and business development throughout all economic sectors and regions. It is most pervasive in the areas of government procurement, the awarding of licenses, and customs.

In March 2014, the parliament adopted the Law on Combating Corruption to help identify and prosecute cases of corruption. The law prohibits government officials from accepting gifts (in person or through an intermediary) from foreign states, international organizations, and political parties. It also severely limits the ability of government officials to travel on business at the expense of foreign entities. Notwithstanding the 2014 law, corruption remains rampant. There are no NGOs involved in monitoring or investigating corruption. Certain government officials, including traffic police, are known to ask for bribes.

Uzbekistan

9. Corruption

Uzbekistan’s legislation and Criminal Code both prohibit corruption. President Mirziyoyev has declared combatting widespread corruption one of his top priorities. On January 3, 2017, he approved the Law on Combating Corruption. The law is intended to raise the efficiency of anti-corruption measures through the consolidation of efforts of government bodies and civil society in preventing and combating cases of corruption, attempted corruption, and conflict of interest, ensuring punishment for such crimes. On June 29, 2020, Presidential Decree UP-4761 created an Anti-Corruption Agency. Subordinate to the president and reporting to Parliament, the agency is responsible for developing and implementing state policy to prevent and combat corruption. On July 6, 2021, Presidential Decree UP-6257 approved 2021-2022 State Anti-Corruption program, which includes a range of measures to ensure the transparency of the government and tighten criminal liability for violators. This program complements the strategy adopted in 2019. Its goals are to strengthen the independence of the judiciary system, develop a fair and transparent public service system requiring civil servants to declare their incomes, establish mechanisms to prevent conflicts of interest, and facilitate civil society and media participation in combating corruption.

Along with the Anti-Corruption Committee, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Uzbekistan (PGO) is the government arm tasked with fighting corruption. Since Mirziyoyev took office in September 2016, the number of officials prosecuted under anti-corruption laws has increased. According to official statistics, over 9,000 corruption-related crimes were registered in 2017-2020. In 2021, Uzbekistani law enforcement agencies initiated 2,345 corruption related criminal cases and prosecuted 2,804 government officials, including 16 central, 241 regional and 2,547 local government officials. By preliminary assessments, the damage caused by budget embezzlement and corruption crimes in 2021 exceeded $90 million. Punishment has varied from fines to imprisonment with confiscation of property. Despite more active criminal prosecution of corrupt officials, however, fundamental reforms to eliminate the prerequisites for such offenses again showed no progress – the adoption of the Law on State Civil Service, which was first drafted 25 years ago, is still on hold.

Formally, the anti-corruption legislation extends to all government officials, their family members, and members of all political parties of the country. From January 1, 2022, Uzbekistan introduces a system of mandatory declaration of income and property for all civil servants, heads and deputies of state-owned enterprises and institutions (entities with state ownership share over 50%), as well as for their spouses and minor children.

In recent years, the GOU has demonstrated efforts to improve the legal framework of awarding contracts and procedures for public procurement. To reduce corruption, the new legal framework provides for the introduction of more transparent electronic bidding systems. The new Law on Natural Resources (ZRU-403 of June 23, 2020), in combination with the Law on Production Sharing Agreements, the Law on Concessions, and various Government Resolutions specify procedures for awarding natural resource extraction contracts and licenses. The most recent Public Procurement Law (ZRU-684, adopted April 22, 2021, effective January 1, 2022) streamlines relevant procedures and requirements. According to the legislation, public procurement or a natural resource extraction contract/license can be awarded through an open auction through E-IJRO AUKSION electronic auction platform, or by decision of the government. In the latter case, the legislation lacks details on actual application procedures and the government’s decision-making process. While enforcement of the new legislation is still at early stage, the process of awarding GOU contracts continues to lack transparency.

The Law on Combating Corruption (ZRU-419, adopted January 3, 2017, last updated November 19, 2021) prescribes a range of measures for preventing corruption, including raising public awareness and introducing transparent rules for public-private interactions. According to the law, all public officials are obliged to notify their supervisors or law enforcement agencies of all cases of proposed corruption from businesses or individuals, as well as any similar offenses committed by other public service employees. The law, however, does not specifically encourage companies to establish relevant internal codes of conduct.

Currently only a few local companies created by or with foreign investors have effective internal ethics programs.

Uzbekistan is a member of the OECD Anti-Corruption Network (ACN) for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. One of the latest OECD reports on anti-corruption reforms in Uzbekistan (March 21, 2019) says that, although Uzbekistan has already undertaken a number of key anti-corruption reforms, the GOU now needs to systematize its anti-corruption policy by making it strategic in nature.

The Law on Combating Corruption encourages more active involvement of NGOs and civil society in investigation and prevention of crimes related with corruption. However, there are still very few officially registered local anti-corruption NGOs. One of them – Transparency Uzbekistan – was registered in September 2021. Embassy Tashkent is not aware of any active corruption investigations conducted by local NGOs. There is evidence of unjust persecution of local civil society activists who are fighting corruption.

Corruption is still a notable factor in the economy and social sphere of Uzbekistan due to the insufficiency of law enforcement practices and relatively low wages in the public sector. Recognizing the issue, the country’s leadership has initiated legislative and institutional reforms, which has already raised Uzbekistan’s rating in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index from 157 (out of 180 rated countries) in 2017 to 140 in 2021. U.S. businesses have cited corruption and lack of transparency in bureaucratic processes, including public procurements and licensing, as among the main obstacles to foreign direct investment in Uzbekistan.

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