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[Dehai-WN] Crisisgroup.org: Burundi: A Deepening Corruption Crisis

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Thu, 22 Mar 2012 00:50:10 +0100

Burundi: A Deepening Corruption Crisis

Africa Report N°185 21 Mar 2012

Translation from French.



Despite the establishment of anti-corruption agencies, Burundi is facing a
deepening corruption crisis that threatens to jeopardise a peace that is
based on development and economic growth bolstered by the state and driven
by foreign investment. The “neopatrimonialist” practices of the party in
office since 2005 has relegated Burundi to the lowest governance rankings,
reduced its appeal to foreign investors, damaged relations with donors; and
contributed to social discontent. More worrying still, neopatrimonialism is
undermining the credibility of post-conflict institutions, relations between
former Tutsi and new Hutu elites and cohesion within the ruling party, whose
leaders are regularly involved in corruption scandals. In order to improve
public governance, the Burundian authorities should “walk the talk” and take
bold steps to curtail corruption. Civil society should actively pursue its
watchdog role and organise mass mobilisation against corruption and donors
should prioritise good governance.

Since Burundi became a republic in 1966, state capture, mostly by the Tutsi
elite, was at the centre of politics, and the unfair wealth distribution
fuelled conflict. While the 1993-2003 civil war has not threatened the Tutsi
political and economic domination, it has increased corruption and favoured
the rise of an ethnically diverse oligarchy.

When the CNDD-FDD (Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces
de défense de la démocratie) rebellion came to power in 2005, it intended
not only to transfer political power from the Tutsi to the Hutu but also to
improve governance. The new authorities pledged to fight corruption and
created state structures to this effect. However, the first corruption
scandals involving the CNDD-FDD dignitaries and state officials watered down
the hope of a more equitable wealth distribution.

In addition to the politicisation of the civil service, the ruling party
captured the public sector and its resources. It is coveting the private
sector by trying to extend its control over the banking sector. It is also
interfering in privatisation processes, thwarting efforts to improve the
business climate. In such a small economy, where the state maintains a
prominent role, the monopolisation of public and private resources risks
derailing the peacebuilding process.

The president took the lead in the fight against corruption to improve
Burundi’s declining image and address the impact of this pervasive
corruption on foreign aid – which amounts to half of the state budget. He
launched a “zero tolerance” campaign and designed a national strategy for
good governance. However, as the core problem has not been correctly
identified, this approach is doomed to fail. The solution is not to “get the
talk right”, to “get the institutions right” and to “get the legal framework
right”; it is to change the power relations that undermine good governance.

The national strategy for good governance includes all the necessary
technical ingredients to fight corruption: improved legal framework,
citizens’ access to information, independent monitoring and regulatory
organisations, depoliticised civil service managers, transparent tendering
processes and public servants recruitments, and reform of the natural
resources sector.

What is missing is a clear political agenda. Civil society organisations
should create a mass movement against corruption through the establishment
of an anti-corruption forum gathering the private sector, rural
organisations and universities. They should also conduct independent
citizens’ surveys and assessments and scrutinise the government’s
anti-corruption performance. Donors should prioritise the fight against
corruption and reconsider their engagement if governance does not improve.
Now that the anti-corruption agenda has become a public policy through the
national strategy for good governance, it is up to civil society and donors
to create the conditions for its implementation.


To create independent institutional checks and balances

To the Government and the Parliament:

1. Establish the High Court of Justice as required by articles 233, 234,
235 and 236 of the constitution and strengthen the statutory safeguards for
the independence of the judiciary, such as the revision of the composition
and powers of the Superior Council of the Judiciary and the principle of
tenure of judges.

2. Review the anti-corruption law to extend the powers of the
anti-corruption agencies, strengthen the control of illicit enrichment and
protect informants.

To the Government:

3. Remove the supervision authority of the executive branch over the
General State Inspectorate and the regulatory agencies so that they become
independent administrative authorities.

To improve governance and transparency in the public sector

To the Government:

4. Activate the recruitment committee of the civil service ministry,
integrate civil society in its composition and publicise widely the
recruitment and appeal procedures.

5. Ensure the declarations of assets and conflicts of interest are
mandatory and public for all politicians and senior members of the Burundi
Revenue Agency, procurement units, and privatisation and anti-cor­rup­tion

6. Include civil society representatives in the procurement units within
the ministries; limit by decree the categories of public contracts with a
secret nature incompatible with any publicity or competition; and change the
composition of the committee in charge of the qualification of these
contracts by entrusting the chairmanship to a senior judge.

7. Pass a law on access to administrative documents and publish on the
Internet financial details of the state and public companies, such as the
budget adopted and implemented by ministries and agencies, budget
amend­ments, other public accounts, procurement contracts, etc.

8. Reform the legal and institutional framework of the oil and mining
sector, drawing on international good practice and civil society
involvement, and join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

To create the conditions for the implementation of reforms

To Civil Society:

9. Establish the anti-corruption forum set out in the national strategy for
good governance involving companies, universities and rural and urban
associations, and establish a citizen’s oversight commission to mon­i­tor
public procurement practices, influence peddling, corruption in the land
administration and illicit enrichment of public servants and politicians.

10. Conduct social audits and an assessment of the “national integrity
system”, the government’s anti-cor­rup­tion performance, the business
climate and privatisation processes.

To the European Union:

11. Ensure the fight against corruption features prominently in the
dialogue with Burundi, prioritise governance in the eleventh European
Development Fund and conduct an assessment of the aid by the European Court
of Auditors.

To the other donors (African Development Bank, World Bank, Belgium, the
Netherlands, Norway, Germany, France, the U.S., Japan, etc.):

12. Support civil society efforts against corruption, including training to
improve knowledge of public finance, procurement and legal control.

13. Include social audits in development projects and suspend projects
where corruption has been proved.

14. Link budget support to the implementation of independent institutional
checks and balances and to progress in terms of governance and transparency
of the administration.

15. Conduct a performance audit on donor-backed institutional checks and
balances and support them only after securing guarantees of their
independence and conducting a performance audit.

16. Ask the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to publicly
release its assessment of the implementation of the UN Convention against

Bujumbura/Nairobi/Brussels, 21 March 2012


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