New Civil Society Report on Togo: Legislative advances are promising for anti-corruption efforts, but are not matched by adequate enforcement

9 March 2022 –

Click on the image to download the report

Togo has made large strides in working to implement and apply provisions under both Chapter II (Preventive measures) and Chapter V (Asset Recovery) of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). A recent report authored by l’Alliance Nationale des Consommateurs et de l’Environnement (ANCE-Togo) discusses the country’s strengths and weaknesses in UNCAC implementation. The report concludes with key recommendations for tackling corruption more effectively in Togo. The report is intended as a contribution to the UNCAC implementation review process in its second cycle, with technical and financial support from the UNCAC Coalition.

Togo has adopted new legislation and transposed several preventive anti-corruption provisions into its new (2015) Criminal Code. Legislation on access to information (2016), asset declarations for public officials (2020) and the application of financial transparency directives stemming from the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU/UEMOA) complement this progress. Furthermore, reforming the national public procurement landscape through the creation of regulatory procurement bodies, and the digitization of administrative procedures and public services via e-Government projects demonstrate the country’s commitment to making progress.

However, despite these laudable advances, Togo continues to suffer from weaknesses such as poor performance and quality of public services (exacerbated by red tape, bribery and racketeering); weak public access to information; low levels of citizen participation in decision-making processes, and an incomplete legal framework characterized by overlap and ambiguity in the roles and responsibilities of the central anti-corruption actors and institutions.

The official UNCAC review process in Togo is ongoing. The governmental experts list is the only official document currently available on Togo’s UNODC country profile page. However, civil society stakeholders were heavily involved in the preparation of the self-assessment checklist, which has not been publicly shared. The country visit is yet to take place.

The full civil society parallel report in French can be found here, or at the bottom of this page. The translated version of the report in English can be found here, or at the bottom of this page.

Main findings

Below are several of the key findings from the report, grouped according to topic:

Preventive Anti-Corruption Policies and Practices

A wide array of policies and legal texts are in place in Togo, covering preventive anti-corruption measures and indicating a firm commitment to punish corrupt practice. The country has progressively applied sanctions against perpetrators of corruption, prosecuting corrupt magistrates, sentencing numerous officials from the Togolese Revenue Office for tax fraud, and punishing over 200 members of law enforcement and security agencies for indiscipline, personal recklessness, negligence, abandonment of their posts, theft, racketeering, greed and corruption.

Nevertheless, Togo’s legal anti-corruption corpus is also characterized by several gaps: the country does not yet have a specific law on the prevention of corruption, and is therefore not fully compliant with the UNCAC. A whistleblower protection law is also missing, as is a law on the transparency of lobbying activities for political purposes.

Preventive Anti-Corruption Bodies

The main anti-corruption bodies in Togo include the High Authority for the Prevention and Fight against Corruption and Related Offenses (HAPLUCIA), the National Financial Information Processing Unit (CENTIF), the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSM) and the Court of Auditors. These bodies engage in a wide array of activities from evaluating and monitoring compliance to more educational functions, such as awareness-raising through promotion of the existing legal framework, and capacity-building activities.

Yet, weaknesses have become apparent in the recruitment procedures of bodies such as HAPLUCIA, which does not make use of a competitive selection process for employment but rather, appoints its members on the basis of presidential decree. The lack of independence in selecting personnel is compounded by limited financial resources, and conflicts of competence between its own work and that of other monitoring bodies.

Public Sector

The digitization of administrative procedures contributes to the prevention and fight against corruption and related offences in the public sector in Togo. The government has identified new information and communication technologies (ICT) as a key lever for modernizing administration, improving its efficiency and transparency, and strengthening its governance.

Embarking on e-Government projects has allowed for a high-speed internet connection throughout administrative buildings; the streamlining of information flows through the implementation of a government messaging system; collaborative work tools for public sector employees; a digital ecosystem including a country portal from which all government websites are accessible, as well as a website which lists information on all kinds of administrative procedures for citizens. In September 2021, the government also adopted a decree on the creation and operationalization of the Togo Digital Agency (ATD), dedicated to the coordination and implementation of digital projects. 

Political Financing

According to the law on political financing adopted in 2013, the state allocates aid for the financing of political activities and election campaigns. Political parties are required to keep accounts on financial activities within the framework of the resources allocated by the state for such purposes. In addition, it is required to file a financial report with the court of auditors within three months of the publication of the final election results.

In its audit of the 2013 legislative campaign funds, the Togolese Court of Audit found that funds were distributed equally and fairly, in accordance with the legislation. However, some political parties only provided summaries of information on campaign accounts. The accounts did not contain supporting documents concerning resources relating to membership fees, income from activities and donations. Further investigation into these documents revealed irregularities in spending: repairs and maintenance of vehicles, motor pumps, generators, refrigerators and purchase of spare parts, payment of water and electricity bills and pharmacy expenses were among the goods and services paid for with the funding allocated for political financing.

Codes of Conduct, Conflicts of Interest & Asset Declarations

Several legislative texts and constitutional articles lay out the conditions for in/eligibility of candidates for election into public office. Conditions include nationality, an age requirement and residency status in the country for a specified period.

Employment with the High Authority for the Prevention and Fight against Corruption and Related Offenses (HAPLUCIA) does not allow for simultaneous involvement in any elective office, professional, national or local representation, as well as any governmental or executive function related to local authorities, public enterprises and judicial functions. Upon assumption of duties, the individual must declare that there is no conflict of interest, as well as declare their assets.

The conditions for asset declarations by high-ranking political personalities, public officials and civil servants are enshrined in the 1992 Constitution and have more recently been supplemented by various laws. The declaration of property and assets is made in physical or digital form and filed with the Constitutional Court and the Ombudsman. Sanctions for non-compliance and failure to submit a declaration consist of hefty fines. Officials within the anti-corruption body (HAPLUCIA), the Togolese Revenue Office (OTR) and the Court of Auditors are known to have declared their assets. However, this practice unfortunately does not extend to most government officials.

In 2019, a decree on the code of ethics and conduct of public procurement was adopted. Its widespread application throughout the country began the following year, yet this was stalled due to the global pandemic. Moreover, the lack of a digitized database on criminal statistics in Togo to better assess the enforcement of sanctions for violations of the code of ethics constitutes a principal weakness. 

Public Finances

Progress has been made in the area of public finance through the transposition of West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) directives, in particular, relating to the code of transparency in public finance management. This law includes several relevant provisions intended to promote transparency in public finances. There have also been commendable efforts to digitize public financial management, notably through the gradual implementation of certain instructions from the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO).

Access to Information

The March 2016 law on freedom of access to information and public documentation has strongly framed the right of access to information in Togo. Under this law, several government agencies make their activity reports public and publish other laws, decrees, orders and other administrative documents through various state webpages. In April 2021, the competences of the Ombudsman of the Republic were legally determined, with the government extending their scope, allowing for the possibility to carry out inquiries or investigations, ensuring fairness, equity and high-quality service within the public sector.

Civil Society Participation

Press offenses have been decriminalized in Togo since 2004, and professional journalist organizations are empowered to mobilize and defend the press when it is attacked. The review process of the draft national anti-corruption strategy was launched with participation from civil society. Three CSO representatives, including a member of ANCE-Togo, represent CSOs on the Steering Committee and have shared their opinions on different facets of the strategy ranging from its terms of reference, to initial drafts. The strategy is expected to be ready by March 2022.

However, mechanisms for broad public consultation (such as the use of online platforms) to gather citizens’ opinions on major issues or during the adoption of certain legal texts are still weak, despite the government’s efforts. There is very little citizen participation in the fight against corruption in Togo, due to a lack of civic education in the fight against corruption and the lack of a law protecting whistleblowers. In the absence of such a law, some media outlets reporting corruption cases are subject to the ordinary law on slanderous denunciation, and required to face penal sanctions and/or fines for lack of evidence. CSOs are impeded by limited technical and material resources, such as the necessary expertise to convince decision-makers.

Measures relating to the judiciary

Judicial confidence has been strengthened through the improvement of the working environment for judges. Magistrates and court officers are being trained at the Training Center for the Professions of Justice (CFPJ), which has instructed over 2,000 judicial professionals. Yet, the judiciary is plagued by a lack of knowledge of proper judicial procedures on the part of the citizenry; insufficient staff in certain jurisdictions resulting in slow processing times of cases, as well as inefficiency and corruption within judicial ranks themselves. Moreover, the High Court of Justice of the State is not yet operational. Thus, the highest officials and agents of the State can only be subject to disciplinary sanctions, not criminal convictions.

Private Sector

Reforms in the field of business law have led to the improvement of corporate governance with the creation of the Center for Business Formalities (CFE), which simplified and gathered all application processes and procedures in a single location. The Trade and Personal Property Credit Register (RCCM) is a digitized database containing information on all companies based in Togo.

Nevertheless, challenges remain in terms of adherence to anti-bribery standards and voluntary anti-corruption initiatives within the private sector in Togo. At the time of writing, no company in the country had adhered to ISO 37001 (2016) on anti-bribery management systems, and apart from a handful of multinational companies and banks operating in the country, no private companies have adopted a code of conduct that complies with international best practices. Finally, the inexistence of whistleblower systems to report corruption within companies, as required by the UNCAC, exacerbates the situation.

Money Laundering

Through the operationalization of the national financial information processing unit (CENTIF) in 2009, Togo has aligned itself with several international measures to combat money laundering, among them, the Palermo Convention and FATF Recommendations. The country has incorporated a wide variety of provisions into its legal corpus, including the repression of offenses linked to checks, bank cards and electronic payment processes, and the treatment of dormant accounts.

Despite the comprehensive legal and institutional framework, many challenges persist in relation to AML/CFT in Togo. According to the Fourth Follow-up Report on the Mutual Evaluation of the AML/CFT System in Togo (May 2015), the country is rated non-compliant (NC) for 15 recommendations and partially compliant (PC) for 20 recommendations on money laundering. Togo needs to strengthen the implementation of existing AML/CFT measures by focusing efforts on the settlement of cash transactions, and enforcing stronger monitoring of cross-border movements of cash and bearer-negotiable instruments.

Asset Recovery

The Togolese legal framework provides for the confiscation and freezing of assets laundered or constituting the proceeds of money laundering and terrorist financing. As for the recovery of ill-gotten gains, it is the state inspectorate that assumes responsibility within the national territory. For cases of international corruption, the police and gendarmerie are more involved. When there is a suspicion of ill-gotten gains, property is to be seized but not confiscated; only the courts have the ability to decide on the case.

The issue of recovering ill-gotten gains at the domestic level remains a challenge. There is no specialized state institution for this task, coupled with weak information-sharing among actors on the challenges of transnational corruption. Finally, scarce material, technical and human resources for efforts on asset recovery are illustrated by a lack of statistics on asset recovery in Togo. On an international scale, Togo has yet to implement UNCAC provisions to recover its assets abroad in accordance with Article 57.

Key Recommendations

In its report, l’Alliance Nationale de Consommateurs et de l’Environnement (ANCE) makes several key recommendations to authorities to ensure the full implementation of the UNCAC in Togo, for example:

  1. Harmonizing and updating the legal anti-corruption framework by:
    1. Identifying and revising legal and regulatory texts on the fight against corruption in Togo;
    2. Promoting the integrated legal framework for the fight against corruption;
    3. Articulating the legal framework for the fight against corruption in Togo;
    4. Streamlining judicial procedures for dealing with proven cases of corruption and related offenses;
    5. Strengthening the enforcement of sanctions for violations of the established rules.
  2. Strengthening the institutional anti-corruption framework by:
    1. Increasing dialogue between actors in the fight against corruption;
    2. Joining several initiatives working in the field (Partnership for Open Government; Infrastructure Transparency Initiative (CoST); Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT));
    3. Creating and operationalizing a supreme administrative monitoring authority, a state judicial agency in accordance with international standards, and a national financial prosecutor’s office, among others;
    4. Setting up an economic and financial brigade (BEF) with units specialized in new forms of economic and financial offences (such as cybercrime; digital offences, etc.), and with appropriate competences to tackle them;
    5. Creating and operationalizing an authority for access to public information and documentation, or strengthening existing mechanisms within the Ombudsman’s office.
  3. Improving the quality and transparency of public services and public finances through further digitization efforts, such as:
    1. Enhancing governance of the public service by digitizing procedures and work tools;
    2. Strengthening the digitization of public procurement and open contracting in accordance with the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS);
    3. Improving the safety, security and transparency of digital traffic control operations through digitization efforts.
  4. Bolstering the fight against private sector corruption by supporting and adopting international principles of best practice, such as the 10th Principle of the 2004 United Nations Global Compact and ISO standard 37001, and transposing such practices into domestic law.

More detailed recommendations are provided in Chapter VI of the report.

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