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Guinea - Corruption

Since independence, the Republic of Guinea has been undermined by problems of governance, especially by periods of autocratic and military authority, recurrent political instability and corruption that pervaded every level of the Public Administration with almost total impunity. Public administration and State institutions, including justice and the security forces functioned, for the most part, problematically, especially over the course of the last two decades.

Even more serious is the involvement of defense and security forces in drug trafficking. Guinea remains a transshipment point for narcotics, primarily cocaine from South America. Corruption and complicity by government agents in supporting the illicit drug trade remains a major impediment to international and local counter narcotics efforts.

Seizures of contraband are not always reported for purposes of incineration, allowing them to be reintroduced in the drug trafficking circuit. Drug trafficking in the region has tended to target countries with porous borders, fragile institutions, weak justice and security apparatuses, and limited resources. It has in turn contributed to the violent unrest and instability the region has seen. When left unchecked, drug traffickers may link up with other illicit networks and share trade routes and possibly profits with rebel groups and violent extremists. When corrupt leaders profit and traffickers act with impunity, populations lose confidence in the rule of law, illicit economies flourish, and accountable and responsive governance is further eroded.

During the colonial period smuggling developed into a flourishing trade, and controls by law enforcement agencies were largely ineffective against this illegal activity. Some enterprises in Conakry specialized in smuggling and moved commodities through distribution points in th a larger towns to local tradesmen. Since independence, smuggling and black-marketing continued on a large scale, despite efforts of the customs service, the police, the army, and the militia. The trade, which apparently was both into and out of the country, involved a wide variety of consumer goods and food products. The clandestine shipment of diamonds from the Forest Region to the coast through Liberia and Sierra Leone was of great concern because it has affected an important source of government revenue.

Economic problems faced by Guinea over the years since independence, including rapid inflation, loss of confidence in the national currency, and the shortage of consumer goods, bolstered the prevalence of smuggling and black-market activity. These illegal practices haf been widely pursued or supported in all areas of the country and on a number of occasions had been controlled or exploited by government officials or influential members of the PDG.

Black-marketing and smuggling have been denounced repeatedly by President Toure as a serious threat to governmental economic planning. Members of the political party’s National Political Bureau (Bureau Politique National — BPN) gave special attention to the effectiveness of frontier surveillance and the measures taken against violations of customs laws. The PDG has passed resolutions calling on all members for increased vigilance in the struggle against illegal speculations, frontier traffic, money transactions, and black-marketing.

To combat smuggling and black-market activities, new articles were adopted and added to the country’s penal code in December 1968. The new additions provided for criminal prosecution for “abuse of power by state officials and employees, illicit acquisition of wealth through border trade, and the growing influence of foreign merchants.” The PDG’s intent of putting a stop to fraud and corruption within the governing administration was implicit in the new criminal law provisions. Despite these governmental sanctions the illicit activities continued, and in late 1972 a number of influential officials were tried on charges of “economic sabotage ” To handle what the president termed “serious lapses in foreign exchange dealings,” Partty and government officials were charged with corruption and tried before tribunals in various parts of the country. Party federations were also organized to “wage war on profiteers” in a nationwide campaign begun in 1972 to “change the mentality of exploitation” by traders. Asserting that a large share of Guinean-produced goods was taken illegally into neighboring countries, particularly Sierra Leone, the president condemned the activities of Lebanese and Syrian traders. As a deterrent to this practice he forbade traders to operate a market within sixteen miles of a border. A renewed campaign against an apparently rising incidence of theft was also instituted. Illegal currency transactions plagued Guinea since independence; and since the introduction of the Guinean franc in 1960, currency had been under black-market rule. In March 1963 the government announced without warning that all people holding Guinean currency would have four days to exchange it for new issues. After the deadline the old money would cease to be legal tender and could not be exchanged. Concurrently all paper money outside the country was decreed worthless. In announcing the move President Toure stated that the reform was intended to combat the widespread practice of smuggling Guinean francs to neighboring countries where they were sold for less than face value. The money received was then used to purchase goods produced in Guinea that had been smuggled into the neighboring areas. The obvious intent of these illegal commercial transactions was to avoid Guinean taxes and to escape the higher costs caused by Guinean inflation. Efforts to combat a sizable traffic in counterfeit currency also were of considerable concern to the government. The introduction of the syli in October 1972 was part of a concerted effort to stem the circulation of counterfeit notes introduced by foreign operators. This action as well as moves to reduce the volume of illicit foreign exchange dealings appeared to have been effective. For illegally smuggling counterfeit Malian currency into Guinean, one Guinean was sentenced to death by public hanging. Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its World Report 2009 covering events in 2008 recorded: “By the end of 2008, hope that nationwide protests in 2007 would improve governance and respect for human rights was replaced by growing concern over the human rights fall-out from Guinea's emergence as a major drug-trafficking hub. The chronic problems of endemic corruption, a fractious and abusive military, the rise of drug trafficking and the involvement of state agents in it, threaten to further erode the rule of law and the government's ability to meet the basic needs of its citizens."

The economic cost of corruption for the country includes, among other things, theft, waste of resource, loss of fiscal and administrative revenues as a result of fraud and disappearance of public resources, often covered up by corrupt public officials. To this are added the cost of maintaining outdated equipment of poor quality, the increased burden on public debt due to badly executed programs like the PRCI, bribes that increase the cost of projects, misappropriation of development aid for personal use, as much by civil servant as by private business, all to the detriment of the reduction of poverty.

On the basis of the globally accepted referential calculation for the Perception of Corruption Index (PCI), the prevalence of observed corruption in Guinea ranked the country 122nd out of 146 countries in 2003, behind Sierra Leone, 121st and ahead of Cameroun 129th, Nigeria 144th and Haiti 146th. The 2006 Transparency International report ranked Guinea 1st in Africa and 4th most corrupt country in the world. The first lessons to be drawn from the 2003 ENACOG study may be summarized as follows: bribery is the most widespread form of corruption the country, even if misappropriations of funds are the most serious. The study shows that 36% of households declared having paid bribes in the 12 months preceding the study. It also shows that the volume of bribes paid in Guinea every year comes to nearly GNF 600 billion, while business people declare having paid close to GNF 500 billion a year in unofficial payments. They also declare that they have paid, on average, about GNF 150,000,000 to political parties per company and per national election. On this subject, they reveal that no sector of the State is immune from corruption and bad governance.

In its 2016 “Ease of Doing Business” index, the World Bank ranked Guinea 165th of 189 countries worldwide(up from 171st in 2015) . Transparency International’s 2015 “Corruption Perception Index” ranked Guinea 139th of 168 countries listed (up from 145th in 2014).

Security force corruption was endemic. Police and gendarmes ignored legal procedures and extorted money from citizens at roadblocks, in prisons, and in detention centers. The government reduced the number of road checkpoints, but traders, small business operators, drivers, and passengers were still obliged to pay bribes to pass. Observers noted prisoners paying money to guards in exchange for favors. In April the minister of national reconciliation stopped as a regular citizen at a police roadblock and was extorted; upon returning a few moments later in his official vehicle, the officers ran away but were not prosecuted.

The country’s business and political culture, coupled with low salaries, have historically combined to create and encourage a culture of corruption throughout Guinea’s government system. Business is often conducted through the payment of bribes rather than by the rule of law. It is not uncommon for government officials to demand money for their personal use, in exchange for favors or just to perform their duties. Though it is illegal to pay bribes in Guinea, there is no enforcement of these laws. In practice, it is difficult and time-consuming to conduct business without paying bribes in Guinea, leaving U.S. companies, which must comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, at a disadvantage. Enforcement of the rule of law in Guinea is irregular and inefficient.

Although the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, the government does 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 continued to be a severe problem. Public funds were diverted for private use or for illegitimate public uses, such as buying expensive vehicles for government workers. Land sales and business contracts generally lacked transparency.

Guinea’s Anti-Corruption Agency (ANLC) is an autonomous agency established by presidential decree in 2004. The ANLC reports directly to the president and is currently the only state agency focused solely on fighting corruption. However, it has been largely ineffective in its role with only two cases prosecuted and no convictions. The ANLC is also forwarded anonymous tips concerning possible corruption cases received from a hotline. However, during the past two years no prosecutions have resulted. The ANLC executive director died in 2015 and has yet to be replaced. The agency is underfunded, understaffed and lacks the basics to fight corruption such as computers and vehicles. The ANLC is comprised of 42 employees in seven field offices and operates on a budget of $1.1 million per year.

The Bureau of Complaint Reception fields anonymous tips forwarded to the ANLC. Investigations and cases must then be prosecuted through criminal courts. During the year there were no prosecutions as a result of tips.

A poll by Afrobarometer and Stat View International of 1,200 citizens from 2011 to 2013 found that 57 percent of the respondents reported paying a bribe within the past 12 months. A separate survey by the ANLC, Open Society Initiative West Africa, and Transparency International found that among private households 61 percent of the respondents stated they were asked to pay a bribe for national services and 24 percent for local services. Furthermore, 24 percent claimed to have paid traffic-related bribes to police, 24 percent for better medical treatment, 19 percent for better water or electricity services, and 8 percent for better judicial treatment.

The Conde administration promised to combat corruption in both government and commercial spheres as one of its top priority agenda items. In general, the situation has improved over the past few years.

Uppon his election as President in 2010 after decades of dictatorship, Alpha Condé decided to re-examine existing contracts in the mining sector and to rewrite the mining code. Good governance was his motto, with the support of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros.

In mid-November 2016, the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto admitted to paying a commission to a close adviser of President Condé to win mining rights over the Simandou project, regarded as one of the world's largest untapped iron ore deposits. Te Guinean president denied any wrongdoing and said he did not know that his adviser, French banker François de Combret, was being paid by Rio Tinto. But the Guinean authorities were at least aware of de Combret's go-between role with the various mining companies involved in Simandou.

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