Corruption, including bribery, raises the costs and risks of doing business in Haiti. U.S. firms have complained that corruption is a major obstacle to effective business operation in Haiti. They frequently point to requests for payment by customs officials in order to clear import shipments as examples of solicitation for bribes.
Haitian law, applicable to individuals and financial institutions, criminalizes corruption and money laundering. Bribes or attempted bribes toward a public official are a criminal act and are punishable by the criminal code (Article 173) for one to three years of imprisonment. The law also contains provisions for the forfeiture and seizure of assets. In practice, however, the law is unevenly and rarely applied.
Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2021 ranked Haiti in the second lowest spot in the Americas region and 164 out of 180 countries worldwide, with a score of 20 out of 100 in perceived levels of public corruption.
The Haitian government has made some progress in enforcing public accountability and transparency, but substantive institutional reforms are still needed. In 2004, the Government of Haiti established the Anti-Corruption Commission (ULCC), but the organization lacks the necessary resources and political independence to be effective. In 2008, parliament approved the law on disclosure of assets by civil servants and high public officials prepared by ULCC, but to date, compliance has been almost nonexistent.
In February 2022, the ULCC announced the launch of the anti-Corruption circuit at the Court of Cassation. Made up of magistrates from the Courts of First Instance and Courts of Appeal of Haiti, the anti-corruption circuit aims to strengthen judicial efficiency and put an end to impunity in relation to corruption cases.
Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes (CSCCA) is currently one of Haiti’s few independent government institutions, responsible for reviewing draft government contracts; conducting audits of government expenditures; and clearing all government officials, including those at the political level, to manage public funds. In November 2020, however, the Haitian government published a decree limiting the authority of the Audit Court. The CSCCA had issued three reports in January 2019, May 2019, and August 2020 citing improper management practices by the Haitian government and the alleged wastage of nearly $2 billion of the Petrocaribe funds. Public anger over the Petrocaribe scandal has since burgeoned into a grassroots movement against widespread corruption in Haiti.
The CSCCA publicly calls on Haitian authorities to take measures to influence public expenditure by implementing monitoring and evaluation and consolidating investment expenditure to better assess the effectiveness of public spending. For nearly a decade, the Haitian state has faced a structural deficit in the management of its public resources. Despite many efforts undertaken to improve fiscal performance, the Haitian State is still in a situation of insufficient resources to respond to the pressures exerted on public spending.
Haiti is not a party to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.
10. Political and Security Environment
The U.S. government partners with Haiti in its efforts to strengthen the rule of law and enhance public security; pursue economic growth through increased domestic resource mobilization and support for private investment; and strengthen good governance and anti-corruption efforts. President Jovenel Moise was assassinated on July 7, 2022, seven months before the end his five-year term. His administration has faced repeated challenges due to frequently changing executive branch leadership, an ineffective parliament followed by a parliamentary lapse beginning in January 2020, legislative elections not being held as scheduled in October 2019, allegations of widespread corruption, weak rule of law, and a deteriorating economy. These factors have hindered both reconstruction efforts and the passage of important legislation. Sporadic protests since mid-2018 have stemmed from a number of factors, including a lack of progress in the fight against corruption and a lack of viable economic options. Haiti’s political situation remains fragile.
Political and civil disorder, such as periodic demonstrations triggered by fuel shortage, increases in fuel prices and worsening insecurity often interrupt normal business operations. Gang violence continues to plague urban centers. Kidnapping, murders, and sexual and gender-based violence by gangs in their struggle to expand their territorial control have a detrimental impact on the population. The Haitian National Police is seeking to improve the effectiveness of its anti-gang operations, take a more balanced approach between prevention and repression, and increase its presence in sensitive areas. The judiciary suffers from serious structural weaknesses, as evidenced by a lack of judges at every level, high absenteeism, executive influence, and increasing numbers of prolonged pretrial detainees. In recent months, Prime Minister Ariel Henry has continued to engage in dialogue with actors from all political backgrounds in an attempt to broaden the consensus around a single, unified vision that would lead to the restoration of fully functional and democratically elected institutions. Although the government has not yet published a revised electoral calendar, momentum seems to be building around an effort to form an inclusive, credible, and effective interim electoral council that would inspire confidence among a critical mass of national stakeholders.
Damage to businesses and other installations frequently occurs as a result of political and civil disorder. Over the past 10 years, multiple incidents of property damage to offices, stores, hotels, hospitals, fuel stations, and car rental companies and dealerships have been reported in the media and to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. Property destruction and vandalism ranges from broken windows to arson and looting. Employees and tourists have also been victims of violence. Kidnapping for ransom is a frequent occurrence in Port-au-Prince. While improvements in the Haitian National Police’s technical and operational capabilities have maintained some semblance of order, violent crime, including looting of businesses, remains a serious problem, along with criminal gang control of a number of Port-au-Prince’s marginalized areas.
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