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Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides for criminal penalties of two to 10 years in prison for official corruption, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. Corruption remained a problem as reflected in the Transparency International corruption index.

Corruption: The criminal code stipulates that charges related to theft, embezzlement, or loss of public and private funds may be initiated against senior, public sector “economic managers” only by the board of directors of the institution. Critics of the law asserted that by permitting only senior officials of state businesses to initiate investigations, the law protects high-level government corruption and promotes impunity.

The Ministry of Justice declared that as of October, 987 government employees or employees of state-run businesses had been charged with corruption-related offenses. The government brought several major corruption cases to trial, resulting in dozens of convictions. Media reporting and public opinion viewed the absence of charges against the most senior of government officials as an indication of impunity for government officials.

In July the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published an article based on the “Panama Papers,” leaked documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, related to allegations of bribery in connection with contracts awarded by Sonatrach, the national oil company. The ICIJ said the documents demonstrated that Mossack Fonseca created 12 of the 17 shell companies established by businessman Farid Bedjaoui for the alleged purpose of funneling bribes to government officials. Former energy minister Chekib Khelil, who had previously been under a 2013 international arrest warrant to face charges in Algeria in connection with the case, returned to Algeria in March after charges were dropped. Former minister of justice Mohamed Charfi claimed he was pressured by FLN secretary general Amar Saadani in 2013 to drop charges against Khelil shortly before he was removed from his post.

On February 2, a court sentenced 12 persons to sentences ranging from 18-month suspended jail terms to six years in prison in a corruption case involving Sonatrach contracting practices. Former Sonatrach CEO Mohamed Meziane received a suspended six-year sentence, and two of his sons were sentenced to five and six years’ imprisonment.

Corruption throughout the government stemmed largely from the bloated nature of the bureaucracy and a lack of transparent oversight. The CNCPPDH stated in its 2014 annual report that public corruption remained a problem and hindered development. The National Association for the Fight Against Corruption noted the existence of an effective anticorruption law but stated that the government lacked the “political will” to apply the law.

Financial Disclosure: The law stipulates that all elected government officials and those appointed by presidential decree must declare their assets the month they commence their jobs, if there is substantial change in their wealth while they are in office, and at the end of their term. Few government officials made their personal wealth public, and there was no enforcement of the law.

Public Access to Information: Lack of government transparency remained a serious problem. Most ministries had websites, but not all ministries regularly maintained them with updated information. Analysts, academics, and other interested parties often had difficulty obtaining even routine and nominally public economic data from government ministries.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption.

Corruption: In February the media reported an international study had estimated that corruption in public works amounted to approximately 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) annually. The Office to Combat Corruption of the federal police publicly confirmed the accuracy of the estimate.

Financial Disclosure: The law does not require elected officials to disclose their income or revenue, but they must report if they serve on any board of directors, regardless of whether in a paid or unpaid capacity.

Public Access to Information: With some exceptions, such as material involving national security, the law provides public access to government information. The government effectively implemented the law.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively. There were some reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: On May 4, a Cayenne appeals court sentenced the mayor of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni in French Guyana to 18 months in prison and a fine of 100,000 euros ($110,000) for complicity in the misappropriation of corporate assets. He was accused of encouraging a private company, whose main shareholder was his municipality, to provide 887,000 euros ($976,000) in compensation benefits to the company’s director, a friend and associate of the mayor.

The inspector general of national police and the Inspectorate of the National Gendarmerie actively investigated and prosecuted allegations of police and gendarme corruption. Citizens may report police abuses on the internet through the Ministry of Interior’s website, provided they identify themselves. In 2015 citizens registered 2,958 reports online.

Financial Disclosure: The president, members of the parliament and the European Parliament, ministers, regional and departmental council heads, mayors of larger communities, and directors of state-owned companies (post office, railway, and telephone) are required to declare their personal assets to the Commission for the Financial Transparency of Political Life at the beginning and end of their terms. The commission issued and made available to the public periodic reports on officials’ financial holdings on a discretionary basis at least once every three years. Officials who fail to comply are subject to sanctions.

The Central Office for Combating Corruption and Financial and Tax Crimes investigates offenses including tax fraud, influence peddling, and failure of elected officials to make financial disclosures or report their own violations of the law.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to government information, and the government provided access for citizens and noncitizens, including foreign media.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government generally did not implement the law effectively. Officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Corruption was a serious problem in the executive branch, including police, as well as in the legislative and judicial branches.

Corruption: There were reports of mostly petty government corruption, but authorities investigated few cases and successfully prosecuted at least nine during the last two years. There was a widespread perception of serious government corruption, but there were few reports of mid- or high-level corruption. Generally, observers considered corruption a serious problem, with insufficient governmental checks and balances to reduce its occurrence. According to government statistics, the Gendarmerie Royale questioned 41,848 public officials in 2015 for corruption offenses. As of October 12, an additional 16,572 officials had been questioned. Information on the results of the interrogations was not available.

The king, who has made statements calling for judicial system reform since 2009, acknowledged the judiciary’s lack of independence and susceptibility to influence. Many members of the well-entrenched and conservative judicial community were loath to adopt new procedures. In some cases judges received disciplinary sanctions for corruption, but were not prosecuted.

Observers noted widespread corruption among police. The government claimed to investigate corruption and other instances of police malfeasance through an internal mechanism (see section 1.d.).

The ICPC is responsible for combating corruption. In May 2015 parliament adopted a constitutionally mandated law providing the ICPC with the authority to compel government institutions to comply with anticorruption investigations. According to government figures, the ICPC received 398 formal complaints or denunciations through October (compared to 400 in all of 2014). The ICPC forwarded to the general prosecutor 55 cases of corruption during the year. Legal penalties for corruption were rare, with the government reporting that as of October, 334 public officials were prosecuted for corruption. Conviction and sentencing information was unavailable.

In addition to the ICPC, the Ministry of Justice and the High Audit Institution (government accountability court) had jurisdiction over corruption issues, but they did not pursue any high-profile cases during the year. The Ministry of Justice ran a hotline for the public to report instances of corruption. According to Ministry of Justice statistics, the hotline received an average of 2,000 calls per day during the first half of the year. As a result of calls, 12 cases were opened, resulting in nine sentences of prison time and fines, two closed for lack of evidence, and one that remains under investigation.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires judges, ministers, and members of parliament to submit financial disclosure statements to the High Audit Institution, which is responsible for monitoring and verifying disclosure compliance. According to allegations from government transparency groups, however, many officials did not file disclosures. There are no effective criminal or administrative sanctions for noncompliance.

Public Access to Information: There is no freedom of information law, although a draft law on public access to information law was passed by the lower house of parliament on July 20. At year’s end, the law is pending a vote in the upper house, before it can be sent to the Council of Ministers and king for approval. The constitution provides for citizen access to information held by public institutions, but authorities did not provide a dedicated access mechanism. The government rarely granted access to official information to citizens and noncitizens, including foreign media. Public officials received no training on access to information. There were no public outreach activities regarding public access to information.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

Although the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The World Bank’s most recent Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a severe problem. The government publicly acknowledged corruption was a problem, and there were several reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: Civil servants often demanded bribes to provide public services. A poorly financed and trained law enforcement establishment and weak administrative controls compounded corruption. Other contributing factors included poverty, low salaries, politicization of the public service, traditional kinship and ethnic allegiances, a culture of impunity, and the lack of civic education.

An investigation uncovered a corrupt civil servant recruitment scheme at the Ministry of Public Health. Several high-level officials were implicated.

Financial Disclosure: The constitution requires the president of the republic, presidents of other government institutions, and cabinet members to submit written statements of their personal property and other assets to the Constitutional Court upon assuming office, and they complied. These statements are to be updated annually and at the end of an individual’s tenure. The National Register and the press published the initial statements and updates. Copies of the statements were forwarded to the government’s fiscal services. Filers must explain any discrepancies between the initial and the updated statements. The Constitutional Court has authority to assess discrepancies, but there was no indication it questioned a declaration’s veracity or imposed sanctions. The law does not allow designated officials to purchase or rent, by themselves or through other parties, any government-owned property or to bid for government contracts. The High Authority to Combat Corruption and Related Crimes and the State Inspectorate have investigative roles, with the State Inspectorate being more administrative.

Public Access to Information: The law provides for access to public information and administrative documents, and the High Council of Communications provided such information. Requesters could also obtain many documents from individual ministries and the national archives. The law provides a list of “communicable” and “noncommunicable” documents and establishes procedures for accessing them and paying related costs. If officials deny access to a document, they are required to notify the requester in writing and provide the legal grounds for denial. The law provides an appeal mechanism for review through the national mediator, and legal complaints were referred to the Administrative Court. It also provides for sanctions against agencies, individual civil servants, and users for noncompliance.


Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption, and the government took some preliminary steps to implement these laws, although they were not always effective, according to transparency NGOs. In January lawyer and former head of the Tunisian Bar Association Chawki Tabib became the head of the National Commission to Combat Corruption (NCCC). The law tasks the NCCC with investigating and preventing corruption and drafting effective policies to combat corruption. Tabib publicly requested a budget increase to 6.5 million dinars ($2.8 million), claiming the budget was insufficient to address the NCCC’s 12,000 backlogged cases of corruption submitted since 2011. In May the government allocated an additional 1.4 million dinars ($608,000) for the NCCC.

Corruption: Anticorruption watchdog groups reported increasing government corruption during the year, especially petty corruption. According to the NCCC, from January to August, 106 cases were referred to the judicial system out of 2,000 received cases. The government referred more than 800 of these dossiers to the NCCC, while complainants themselves directly submitted the remainder of the cases to the NCCC. The main sectors affected by corruption included real estate, agricultural land, energy, mining, and public procurement.

Financial Disclosure: The constitution requires those holding high government offices to declare assets “as provided by law.” At the end of the year, there was no law that requires appointed or elected officials to disclose their income or assets.

Public Access to Information: To improve transparency and promote national reconciliation following the 2011 revolution, a new law granted journalists and civil society organizations access to the records of the previous regime. Bureaucratic hurdles, however, limited the law’s implementation. Information from the previous regime deemed sensitive remained inaccessible. The law on transitional justice grants access to this information for members of the Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC), a body established in 2014 and tasked with investigating gross violations of human rights from 1955 until passage of the transitional justice law in 2013.

On March 11, parliament approved a new access to information law that was highly praised by civil society organizations. The new law grants citizens access to documents from public institutions, government agencies, and certain publicly financed associations, and it requires public entities to make information about their offices, including budgets and contact information, publicly available online. The government had one year to implement the program.

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