Mali - Corruption
Corruption in all sectors of the administration was widespread. Authorities did not hold police accountable for corruption. Officials, police, and gendarmes frequently extorted bribes. There were reports of uniformed police or individuals dressed as police directing stopped motorists to drive to dark and isolated locations where they robbed the victims. The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption.
Corruption is the one of the greatest obstacles for foreign investment and economic development in Mali. While corruption is a crime punishable under the penal code, bribery is frequently reported in many large contracts and investment projects. Government officials often solicit bribes in order to complete otherwise routine procedures. The GOM passed laws against the illegal accumulation of wealth in 2013 and 2015. The law, however, does not force members of parliament or the executive to declare their assets. The government has pledged to update the law. In 2016, Transparency International (TI) global corruption ranking for Mali decreased to 116 of 176 from 95 of 168 countries surveyed in 2015. Mali’s perceived public corruption score, as evaluated by Malian citizens is 32 out of 100 with zero being the worst possible score.
Corruption is most pervasive in government procurement and dispute settlement. The government has addressed this by requiring procurement contracts to be inspected by the Directorate General for Public Procurement, which determines whether the procedure meets fairness, price competitiveness, and quality standards. However, there is significant political interference in procurement. Mali's international donor community has been working with the government to reduce corruption, but progress has been slow.
As evidenced in the above narratives, investors have found the judicial sector to be neither independent nor transparent. Questionable judgments in commercial cases have occasionally been successfully overturned at the Supreme Court’s Court of Appeal. However, there is a general perception among the populace that while prosecution of minor economic crimes is routine, official corruption, particularly at the higher levels, goes largely unpunished.
The President created the Office of the Auditor General (Bureau du Verificatuer General –BVG) in 2004 as an independent agency tasked to audit public spending. Since its inception, the BVG has uncovered several large cases of corruption. However, almost none have resulted in prosecutions. In 2011, inspectors from the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria uncovered cases of embezzlement of public and donor funds by officials at the Ministry of Health. The Malian judiciary prosecuted several high-ranking Ministry of Health officials including the Minister of Health who subsequently resigned. However, the trial resulted in an acquittal of the Minister and all 18 co-defendants, due to a lack of evidence.
In the BVG’s 2013 annual report, the Auditor General announced that 17 government entities embezzled $100 million of public funds. The BVG is not able to conduct a whole of government audit each year. The BVG’s most recent report of 2014 (released in May 2015) showed that 16 government’s agencies embezzled $124 million of public fund. Mali’s annual budget is usually around $3 billion. The Cell to Support Financial Control of the Administration (Cellule d’Appui aux Structures de Contrôle de l’Administration) declared that 209 reports of corruption were sent to the Ministry of Justice for review and prosecution; however, no cases have been brought to court and successfully prosecuted.
In 2014, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expressed concerns over extra budgetary spending, inadequate transparency, and corruption, which led the IMF to temporarily suspend financial support to Mali in June, with certain donors including the World Bank and the European Union following suit. To address IMF and donor community concerns, the Government of Mali audited the purchase of a controversial presidential plane and over $200 million in bloated defense contracts and has agreed to hold senior government leaders responsible for any acts of corruption. The IMF’s September 2014 follow up review concluded that the Government of Mali had made preliminary efforts to address extra-budgetary expenditures, and as a result, the IMF voted in December 2014 to reestablish financing to Mali. During a January 2015 cabinet reshuffle, the implicated Minister of Economy and Finance and Minister of Investments were replaced, but were shifted into other high-level positions, including in the office of the presidency. Concrete actions remain to be seen on promises to hold government officials accountable for financial mismanagement. The clean bill of health from the IMF has led donors including the World Bank and European Union to resume budgetary support.
The scandals related to embezzlement of public funds continued in 2015 as the distribution of poor quality fertilizers to farmers showed yet again the extent of corruption in Mali and the lack of will to fight the problem. Moreover, customs agents were shown to be complicit in schemes to fraudulently import gas and petroleum products. Both foreign and domestic companies complain about tax collection as they face harassment by officials seeking bribes. In 2016, the Minister of Finance refused to reimburse a sizeable debt arguing that the lenders failed to provide supporting documents. Many observers contend collusion among government officials and businessmen artificially inflates Mali’s internal debt.
Growing pressure from international donors for more transparency in public resource management led to changing the appointment process of the Directors of Finance and Equipment. As result, in March 2017, the Minister of Finance dismissed fifteen Directors of Finance and Equipment. Eighteen others were moved to other ministries. The GOM decided to create a new office to fight illicit enrichment of public servants. The new office has the authority to receive declarations of assets from public servants, to undertake investigation against government officials suspected of corruption, and to refer for prosecution if sufficient evidence is gathered against the defendant. While the government takes baby steps to fight corruption, the business environment continues to suffer from widespread corruption which couples with the deteriorated security situation to constitute the most important barriers to the promotion of investment in Mali.
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