Victim-Compensation Arguments Cut Both Ways

In my last post, I imagined what a frustrated U.S. official might have to say about the ever-increasing drumbeat of demands for the United States to “return” (that is, transfer) the “proceeds of crime” (that is, the fines collected from corporate defendants in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) cases) to the “victim countries” (that is, the governments whose officials took the bribes that gave rise to the FCPA violations). My imaginary rant was deliberately over-the-top, intended to be provocative and to stir up some more honest debate on this topic by cutting through the circumspection and diplomatic niceties that usually accompany pushback against the “give the settlement money to the victim countries” position. In this post, I want to continue on the same general topic, and in the same provocateur’s spirit, by asking the following question:

When (or if) demand-side countries start collecting serious fines against bribe-taking public officials and/or bribe-paying companies, does the logic of compensating “victims” dictate that these countries transfer some of the money they recover to the United States?

At the risk of seeming totally bonkers, I’m going to assert that the answer might well be yes if one accepts the logic for making transfer payments in the other direction (from the U.S. government to the governments of the countries whose officials took the bribes) in FCPA cases. Here’s the argument: Continue reading

A Role for the Courts in Limiting Philippine Political Dynasties

In an earlier post I wrote about Philippine political dynasties, I argued for the adoption of an anti-dynasty law that would bring into effect Article II, Section 26 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which states that “[t]he State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” Since the Philippines gained its independence, political dynasties have dominated national and local government—70% of the last Congress, for example, belonged to a political dynasty. Because these families have maintained an effective oligarchy over the country for decades, they can easily abuse their discretion and commit corrupt acts without consequence.

While the Framers of the 1987 Constitution recognized the danger these elite families posed to fair governance and their propensity to engage in corruption, the Supreme Court has found that the constitutional ban on dynasties is not a self-executing provision. In May 2014, for the first time in history, an anti-dynasty bill made it out of committee and was sponsored before the House plenary. In his final State of the Nation Address, President Noynoy Aquino urged Congress to finally pass an anti-dynasty law. Politicians in Congress, however, have since blocked efforts to pass such a law. By October 2015, the Senate President publicly announced that no anti-dynasty law would be approved before the May 2016 election. Despite my hope that the recent bill would result in a new law at last, this outcome is not surprising. Political dynasties have controlled the majority of Congress for decades, and numerous politicians seeking office in this year’s election would have been prohibited from running if the law had passed.

Now the results of the May election are in, it looks as though Congress will continue to be dominated by dynastic politicians. President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s stance on political dynasties is currently unclear, although he himself belongs to a political dynasty. Given this, legislative action may simply be out of reach for the time being. One interesting question is whether the courts could intervene to bring the constitutional ban into effect. Doing so would be a radical departure from past practice, and would require rethinking certain core judicial doctrines, but might be nonetheless be legitimate under the circumstances. Continue reading

TNI’s Gold Mine: Corruption and Military-Owned Businesses in Indonesia

The Grasberg Mine, located close to the highest mountain in West Papua, Indonesia, is the world’s largest gold mine and third-largest copper mine. The mine, owned by the corporation Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, has been the site of strings of grave human rights abuses, linked to Indonesia’s own National Armed Forces (Tentara National Indonesia/TNI). TNI’s presence in the territory is ostensibly to protect the mine, and Freeport’s Indonesian subsidiary acknowledges having made payments of as much as US$4.7 million in 2001 and US$5.6 million in 2002 for such government-provided security. A report by Global Witness, however, revealed numerous other payments ranging from US$200 to US$60,000 that Freeport Indonesia allegedly made to individual military officers.

The TNI’s sale of security services to companies like Freeport is only one of the many business ventures conducted by the TNI and its officers. As Human Rights Watch has reported, the Indonesian military has been supplementing its income through both its formally established companies, and through informal and often illicit businesses such as black market dealing. Moreover, the military’s business activities (both lawful and unlawful) are largely shielded from public scrutiny: budgeting for military purposes is generally kept secret, and TNI members generally refuse to answer questions about institutional spending.

Military-owned business in Indonesia are problematic, not only because this private-sector activity impedes military professionalism and distorts the function of the military, but also because it also contributes to crime, human rights abuses, and especially corruption. This problem is greatly compounded by the fact that TNI officers generally enjoy immunity from corruption charges brought by civilian institutions. In fact, the Transparency International’s Defense and Security Program has deemed Indonesia one of the countries most prone to corruption in its defense and security institutions. It is therefore appalling that this issue has not been addressed more seriously by the Indonesian government. Although a 2004 law mandated the transfer of control over TNI businesses to the civilian government within five years, the law did not clearly specify which types of business activities were covered, and this legal loophole enabled the TNI to preserve many of its moneymaking ventures, including TNI’s infamous security services—to say nothing of already-illegal criminal enterprises and illicit corporations. Moreover, despite the five-year timetable in the law, the government has been notably reluctant to enforce the transfer of ownership, making repeated excuses alluding vaguely to the need for the TNI to compensate for the lack of budgeting for security purposes. As a result, despite some efforts to reform the way the TNI is allowed to handle its businesses, military-owned businesses in Indonesia continues to flourish, with the Indonesian people of Indonesia having to pay the price.

The government’s weak response towards the military’s non-compliance with the 2004 law is merely one of the many indicators of how impervious the TNI’s power and seeming impunity. There are factors that contribute to this impunity, along with the corresponding corruption and abuse of power in the operations of military-owned businesses: Continue reading

Guest Post: Corruption Among Development NGOs, Part 3–The Need for Collective Action by Funding Agencies

Roger Henke, Chairman of the Board of the Southeast Asia Development Program (SADP), a development grantmaker based in Cambodia, contributes the following guest post (the third in a three-part series):

Previous posts on development NGO corruption described a survey tool and its results in Cambodia and the conundrum of using the upward accountability relationship between local NGOs (LNGOs) and the grantmakers funding them for remedial action. The analysis of the report which underlies much of those contributions includes another foundational premise: Given the systemic functioning of Cambodia’s (and other countries’) LNGO sectors, anticorruption action to hold these LNGOs to account needs to be collective in order to be effective.

The characterization of the sector as “systemic” is meant to capture fact that nearly all LNGOs are funded by more than one, often five or more, grantmakers, while these grantmakers in turn, each fund many (sometimes more than 25) LNGO partners. To see why this matters for upward accountability, suppose for the moment that a given Grantmaker X takes seriously its responsibilities to diligently oversee LNGO Partner Y, and suppose further that Grantmaker X uncovers a problem. What happens next? The best case scenario is that the LNGO acknowledges the problem and fixes it, while the worst-case scenario is that both the LNGO and the grantmaker ignore the problem. Both of those happen sometimes. But the more common outcome is this: The LNGO fails to deal with the problem, and eventually Grantmaker X decides to stop funding it. But this affects LNGO Y only temporarily, because it has (or can find) other funders, many of which may not exercise the same degree of diligence as Grantmaker X. So nothing much changes. Even when Grantmaker X communicates with other co-funders about the problems, and more of them decide to question their support of LNGO Y, it takes a fair level of coordinated grantmaker disinvestment to put an LNGO out of business. That level of coordination is rare even in cases of obvious crisis, and absent during more mundane times.

What is needed, then, is more collective action. Many grantmaker staffs would agree with this in principle, but the dominant response is generally not action but resignation, dressed up as “realism”: “Why waste time on beating a dead horse? Even if local grantmaker offices were all willing to collaborate, aligning the diverse requirements regarding reporting, auditing, etc. of all the headquarters….forget it.” I reject this defeatism. One rarely knows that something won’t work until one tries, and my experience in Cambodia is that practical pilots are very rare. So, what would proper collective diligence regarding financial management imply in practice? Continue reading

Fraud and Corruption Risks in Procurement: A Thumbnail Sketch

Public procurement is the government activity perhaps most vulnerable to fraud and corruption.  Not only are the sums involved enormous, $9.5 trillion a year by one estimate, but at every point in the process decision-makers enjoy great discretion.  They must first decide if government needs to buy a good or service.  If the decision is to make a purchase, government personnel must determine how government should make it: through a sole source contract or by competitive bid.  If they choose the former, they must decide from whom to buy; if the decision is to use competitive bidding, decisions about where to advertise the request, for how long, what personnel should select the winning bidder, and what criteria they should use are also required.

Because there are so many places where fraud and corruption can creep into the process, it is hardly surprising that the internet is brimming with books, articles, and brochures of all sorts on how to combat fraud and corruption at each stage in the procurement cycle, and indeed a Google search for material on “government procurement corruption” returns 15 million documents in less than half a second.  This wealth of material is itself part of the problem.  Those tasked to participate in a procurement who want a summary of what to watch for may be so overwhelmed by what’s available that they give up their search and hope their “gut” or a better trained colleague will pick up any irregularity.

For those looking for a short description of the areas where fraud and corruption is most likely to seep into the procurement cycle, a place to begin a search for more detailed material on a particular point, I offer a thumbnail sketch of procurement risks.  I thank colleagues at the Millennium Challenge Corporation and elsewhere who have helped in compiling and simplifying the list.  Suggestions for areas missed — or better (but still succinct!) ways to express the risks — warmly welcomed.   Continue reading

What Might U.S. Officials Think of Demands that the U.S. Transfer FCPA Settlement Proceeds to Demand-Side Governments? An Imaginary Rant

As the United States continues to settle Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) cases with corporate defendants for large sums, the issue of whether the U.S. and other “supply-side” enforcers should transfer a portion of these settlement proceeds to the countries where the bribery took place has continued to attract attention and discussion. (This question is often framed as whether the U.S. should “return” some of these settlement proceeds to the “victim countries,” but that formulation is highly misleading, both because criminal fines were never the property of another government, and so cannot be “returned,” and because in many cases referring to these countries as “victims” is problematic, to put it mildly. So I’ll refer to this as “transferring settlement proceeds to demand-side countries.”) The push for transferring settlement proceeds to demand-side countries has gotten a bit more traction over the past year, and has become something of a talking point for certain demand-side governments, especially those in Africa, along with supporting NGOs. So, for example, a Nigeria-sponsored resolution at last year’s UN Convention Against Corruption Conference of States Parties (Resolution 6/2) called for “urgent attention” to the (utterly bogus and misleading) statistic that although US$6.2 billion has been recovered through settlements in foreign bribery cases, only 3% of this amount “has been returned to States whose officials were bribed and where corrupt transactions took place, which is a key aim of chapter V of the contention,” and further called on states that use settlements to conclude foreign bribery cases to “give due consideration to the involvement of the jurisdictions … where foreign officials were bribed.” (The original proposed language was far stronger, “noting with concern the prevailing narrow interpretation of the terms ‘proceeds of crime’ in settlements … that excludes … fines in order to avoid such proceeds from being returned to States and, by so doing, using settlements to create an artificial category of victims of corruption, thereby reducing the potency of chapter V of the Convention.”) One sees this push in several of the country statements coming out of last month’s London Anticorruption Summit, especially those of Nigeria and Tanzania.

Unsurprisingly, the United States has resisted these calls. Generally, U.S. officials have done so (at least in public) tactfully and diplomatically, emphasizing the U.S. government’s commitment to helping the victims of cooperation, its willingness to work with other countries to cooperate in ongoing investigations and improve the mutual legal assistance process, etc. But I’m beginning to sense a growing undercurrent of frustration on the U.S. side, as an increasing number of demand-side countries and NGOs are making the call for transfer of settlement proceeds to demand-side governments (which, again, they often characterize as “returning assets to victim countries”) a central theme of their presentations and diplomatic efforts. (And perhaps, I should acknowledge, some of the frustration I’m sensing is a reflection of my own skepticism – see here, here, and here.) Now, when I say I sense growing frustration or irritation on the U.S. side, I should be clear that I’m speculating. Though I’ve met a few officials from the U.S. Departments of State and Justice, and Treasury who work on corruption issues, I’m certainly no insider, and nothing in the rest of this post should be interpreted is reflecting any actual conversations or statements from current or former U.S. government officials, because it doesn’t. Nor should this be taken as fully reflecting my own views, even though part of what I’m going to write below is generated by introspection.

With those caveats, I’d like to try to imagine what’s going on in the heads of U.S. government officials as they smile politely while listening to the sorts of criticisms I noted above, and when they express, in measured language, their reservations about the proposals that the U.S. transfer FCPA settlement proceeds to demand-side countries. Just for fun, and to be a bit provocative, I’ll present this as a kind of unhinged rant – the sort of thing I imagine that a hypothetical U.S. official’s id might be screaming internally, behind the polite smiles and diplomatic language imposed by her superego. The imaginary rant, in response to demands that the U.S. transfer FCPA settlement proceeds to demand-side countries, might run something like this: Continue reading

Due Process and its Discontents: Nigeria’s Case Against Sambo Dasuki Encounters an Unwelcome (but Necessary) Hurdle

Just over a year ago, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took office. He had run on a platform of anticorruption and military reform and, while I wanted to be hopeful, I expressed measured skepticism that he would be able to make substantial headway on either issue. For all he has received his fair share of criticism over the past year, President Buhari has made considerable efforts to tackle corruption, including graft in the military. In addition to advancing somewhat controversial legal reforms aimed at whistleblower protection and anti-money laundering, among other things, the Buhari administration has stepped up prosecution of high-level officials for corruption-related crimes.

The most prominent case is that of Colonel Mohammed Sambo Dasuki, who served as former President Goodluck Jonathan’s National Security Adviser from 2012 to 2015. Following an investigation into arms procurement under the Jonathan administration, authorities arrested Dasuki in late 2015 and indicted him on numerous counts of fraud and money laundering. The initial investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), one of Nigeria’s anticorruption units, uncovered evidence that Dasuki had orchestrated a fraudulent $2 billion arms deal and had engaged in other criminally corrupt activity. The charging documents accuse Dasuki of funneling state funds to politicians of the former ruling party, real estate developers, consultants, and religious leaders. The money had been intended to purchase helicopters and military planes for the fight against Boko Haram, the terrorist group responsible for the death of thousands and the displacement of millions in northern Nigeria. The purported criminal conduct involved high-profile co-conspirators, including former Minister of Finance Bashir Yuguda and former governor of Sokoto State Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa. If the alleged facts are true, Dasuki and his accomplices are guilty of heinous crimes.

Given the severity – and plausibility – of the purported misconduct, I was not shocked to see that the case had reached the ECOWAS Court of Justice – a regional body with jurisdiction over human rights abuses committed by Member States. I was shocked to see that Dasuki was the complainant, and that the Court of Justice had issued a preliminary ruling in his favor. Upon taking a step back, though, I realized that the Court of Justice ruling is not outrageous; in fact, it has sent a critically important message to the Nigerian government that respecting the rule of law is just as important as convicting corrupt officials.

Continue reading