The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, but the de facto regime did not implement the law effectively, and officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Corruption was pervasive at all levels of government, and the World Bank’s most recent Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a serious problem.
Corruption: Local economists estimated that 40 percent of the country’s gross domestic product stemmed from illicit activities and corruption, compared to 20 percent during the 1990s. NGOs and the media reported that anticorruption efforts in recent years were more effective in pursuing low-level violators than in attacking corruption at the national level.
High-ranking members of the de facto regime made several efforts to extort international and domestic industries for personal profit by threatening to withhold operating permits and harassing management. At year’s end the country remained suspended from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
Corruption in the police and gendarmerie was a problem. On August 28, the office of the commander of the gendarmerie issued a communique noting that a number of gendarmes had been sanctioned for corruption.
Corruption also occurred in the judiciary and prosecutors demanded bribes to release defendants. For example, on May 6, security forces in Mananara arrested members of a mob that raided the offices of the state-run electricity provider to protest frequent power outages. One outage reportedly caused the death of a female patient undergoing surgery at the local hospital. Local authorities charged the individuals with disrupting public order and destruction of property. The local prosecutor allegedly demanded bribes to release the detainees, and those who could not pay remained in prison for several weeks before being freed on bail.
The Independent Anticorruption Bureau (BIANCO) is a nominally independent government agency with a presidentially appointed director and oversight from the Committee for the Safeguard of Integrity within the presidency. BIANCO is responsible for preventing, combating, and investigating corruption. A special anticorruption court prosecutes corruption cases referred by BIANCO. In 2012 BIANCO received 1,064 complaints involving corruption, of which 82 percent were deemed eligible for investigation. Of these, only 55 percent were investigated by BIANCO’s investigative branch, in part due to resource constraints.
The general absence of rule of law created a permissive environment for illegal logging and the export of rare hardwoods, primarily from the northern forests. International and domestic NGOs alleged that high-level corruption – with involvement ranging from local security forces to the de facto national government – permitted the illegal cutting and export of rosewood and ebony trees, along with rare wildlife protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In October de facto president Rajoelina sought to sell rosewood in contravention of CITES restrictions for the stated purpose of generating revenue to support the security services during national elections.
Whistleblower Protection: While there is no specific whistleblower legislation, the 2004 anticorruption law provides that the identities of both whistleblowers and individuals accused of corruption be protected during an investigation. Courts may not compel witnesses to reveal information that may identify whistleblowers, and it is illegal to reprimand individuals who report corruption. Whistleblowers complicit in corruption are exempted from punishment if they report infractions prior to prosecution. If complicit individuals are prosecuted and later facilitate the arrest of other suspects, their sentences are halved. The extent to which these provisions were implemented was unclear.
Financial Disclosure: Regular income and asset declaration is required by decree for individuals in the following positions: the prime minister and other government ministers, senators and elected representatives; members of the High Constitutional Court; provincial governors, chiefs of regions, and mayors; magistrates; civil servants holding official positions of or equivalent to ministry director and above; inspectors of land titling, treasury, tax, and finances; military officers at the company level and above; inspectors from the State General Inspection, from the Army’s General Inspection, and from the National Gendarmerie’s General Inspection; and anyone serving as a judicial police officer.
These financial declarations are required no later than three months after the nomination or election and must be renewed annually. The requirement also applies to spouses and children. Nevertheless, some members of the transitional legislature, who were appointed and not elected, claimed exemption from these requirements. Financial declarations were confidential, and BIANCO does not publish the names of persons who failed to make a declaration. BIANCO occasionally published an approximate percentage of the officials who provided declarations. Statements may be published only upon request of the declaring officer or of judicial and parliamentary authorities and may be used in the context of investigations. BIANCO may inform the Prosecutor’s Office in cases of noncompliance with the obligation. Despite these legal requirements, the number of officials who reported their income in 2012 fell by nearly 45 percent compared with the previous year. There was no indication that authorities applied sanctions for noncompliance.
Public Access to Information: There are no laws providing for public access to government information. Educational material on corruption, including statistics, was available to citizens and noncitizens, including foreign media. Nevertheless, the information was limited, not regularly updated, and not thoroughly verified.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Numerous domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. De facto regime officials generally were unresponsive to their views, but international human rights groups were allowed to enter the country, conduct their work, and consult freely with other groups.
There were several domestic NGOs in the country that worked on human rights, but very few had the capacity to work effectively and independently. The National Council for Election Observation continued to be a leader in the field of civic education and provided technical support and training in several past elections. Several other NGOs worked to monitor human rights problems and actively participated in public and private forums on the subject. Political movements occasionally attempted to co-opt these organizations, leading to accusations of their increasing politicization, but they were not routinely suppressed or subjected to harassment.
Government Human Rights Bodies: An ombudsman office conducted minimal activities.