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Benin - Corruption

Benin is an exceptional U.S. partner in West Africa with a history of democratic pluralism, development, and political stability. However, due to its strategic location, with a large port and substantial transportation links to Nigeria, Benin is susceptible to drug trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime.

Benins lack of law enforcement capabilities, along with a heavily cash-based economy, makes it difficult to track the sources of financial resources and facilitates corruption, money laundering, and other illicit economic activities. Weaknesses in the justice sector and rule of law remain, particularly the backlog of criminal cases, as well as the need for more effective cooperation between national and regional actors to address transnational organized crime and corruption.

Many African countries, including Benin, are anxious to root out corruption with democratic transparency, but their success has been mixed, and the persistence of ethnic ties is a common explanation for this failure.

One of Benins most serious political challenges today is a political system that fails to systematically sanction corrupt practices on the part of political elite and their cronies. Thre are both high levels of corrupt practice in government and limited political will to deal with the ramifications of these practices.

This problem is rooted in a number of fundamental weaknesses in Benins democracy, the most important of which are limited effective competition throughout the political and economic system (perhaps least in the electoral arena, but there too), which does not offer real political and economic options to a poorly-performing public sector; a near-total lack of accountability to the law, especially on the part of those in the public sector; and the increasing inability of the public sector to deliver basic services and security to the public.

Impunity and failure to follow existing legal mandates are twin complaints and represent a pathology that seems to be rapidly spreading in Benin to infect the entire political system. As political favor and economic power become intertwined, the view that a mafia controls the state is beginning to weaken the credibility of the government, and in turn state capacity to deliver services. Relationships between the governed and political power holders are enfeebled, and the interests of mass publics are increasingly ignored by politicians in favor of the interests of a privileged few. Democratic governance practiced under these conditions is unable to deliver basic services and effectively reduce poverty, and does not contribute to the expansions of freedom which have been tied to democratic renewal and reform.

Although the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Police corruption was widespread. Police extorted money from travelers at roadblocks. It was commonly believed, and acknowledged by some judicial personnel, that the judicial system at all levels was susceptible to corruption. The World Banks most recent Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a serious problem.

The government took a number of actions during 2016 year to combat corruption, however. For example, on April 19, the National Anti-Corruption Authority (ANLC) referred three high-profile cases of corruption and other acts of economic malfeasance against the Office of Treasury and Public Accounting, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and the National Council of Shippers to the prosecutor of the Court of Cotonou. On April 28, the authority conducted a session for court staff, gendarmes, police, civil society activists, and Ministry of Justice officials to discuss the triannual assessment of the legal procedures related to corruption and transnational organized crime.

On 07 July 2016, the Council of Ministers acted on the findings of a commission appointed by the president that investigated fraud allegations related to the 2015 civil servant recruitment exams at the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Based on the findings, the council annulled the results of recruitment exams and excluded from future employment all the candidates found to be involved in the fraud and suspended and pursued legal action against officials involved in the fraud. In addition to 11 serving high-ranking government officials, authorities pursued legal action against former ministers of economy and finance Komi Koutche and of labor and public service Aboubacar Yaya.

The law requires income and asset disclosure by appointed and elected public officials. Declarations are not made available to the public. On March 18, the ANLC submitted an appeal to the National Assembly urging lawmakers to submit their asset disclosure statements to the Supreme Court pursuant to Article 3 of Benins Anti-Corruption Act. Reportedly only six out of the 83 sitting deputies in the National Assembly had submitted asset disclosure statements. At a March 6 cabinet meeting, which was publicized by the government and press, the president disclosed his assets as of the end of his term. The penalty for failure to submit an asset disclosure is a fine of six times the monthly wage of the official concerned. This penalty has never been applied.





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