23 February 2023 –
Since its independence in 1991, Kyrgyzstan has taken action to combat corruption through the adoption of legislative and policy measures in line with the provisions of Chapter II (Preventive measures) and Chapter V (Asset Recovery) of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). A recent report by the Central Asian Research Institute on Corruption and Money Laundering discusses the country’s strengths and weaknesses in UNCAC implementation, such as the recent creation of a publicly accessible registry of legal entities, the publication of government budget reports; yet this against the background of shrinking civic space. The report concludes with key recommendations to the government of Kyrgyzstan for tackling corruption more effectively in the country. The report is intended as a contribution to the UNCAC implementation review process in its second cycle, produced with technical and financial support from the UNCAC Coalition.
The Kyrgyz Republic (KR) ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2005. As recently as 2020, a new Constitution was adopted, which not only increased the executive powers of the President, but also ensured his absolute power in shaping the state’s anti-corruption policy. Power was already heavily centralized under the rule of previous presidents, under whom Kyrgyzstan suffered from very high levels of corruption, and which, this report reveals, primarily consisted of “clan-family manifestations of nepotism.” With the centralization of power, current levels of corruption according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (2021) and the Worldwide Governance Indicators (2022), are further exacerbated by the emergence of novel corruption schemes.
Regarding Preventive measures under Chapter II of the UNCAC, the body which until 2020 played a key role in combating corruption – the Defense Council Working Group – is no longer so active. The Prosecutor General’s Office is now the main anti-corruption body, and supervises the implementation of anti-corruption legislation applicable to state and municipal bodies. There are no prominent political opposition leaders in the country. The persecution and criminal prosecution of all ‘dissident’ journalists and bloggers has intensified in recent years.
On Chapter V articles of the UNCAC related to Asset Recovery, there are no active investigative measures related to the arrest and confiscation of property identified through financial investigations for the legalization of criminal assets. Assets and other property that are located abroad or linked to close relatives remain out of the sight of authorities. Kyrgyzstan’s anti-corruption legal framework contains virtually no recommendations from the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF). The report finds that there is a lack of political will to return stolen assets, since no real work is being done in this field.
The official UNCAC review process in Kyrgyzstan is ongoing. The governmental experts list is the only document available on Kyrgyzstan’s UNODC country profile page for the second cycle review. The Central Asian Research Institute on Corruption and Money Laundering sent a Freedom of Information request to enquire about the country’s UNCAC focal point as part of the research for this report, but little to no information about the review process was made available beyond the fact that the Prosecutor General’s Office is the coordinating body. It is unknown whether civil society has been involved in the review process so far.
Below are several of the key findings from the report, grouped according to topic:
Preventive Anti-Corruption Policies and Practices
Previous anti-corruption strategies and action plans in Kyrgyzstan demonstrated a gradual strengthening of the role of the civil society and other stakeholder participation through the Security Council Working Group and expert groups in state bodies, in the implementation of policies and detection of corruption risks. Currently, the anti-corruption legislative framework is undergoing changes. The draft Law on Countering Corruption was developed without involving stakeholders during the drafting period, whilst the draft Anti-Corruption Strategy was developed with the participation of stakeholders via the Anti-Corruption Business Council, meetings with citizens and civil society organizations. However, it lacks essential components and an action plan, remaining as declaratory as all the previous strategies.
Preventive anti-corruption functions are dispersed among several state bodies, such as the Office of the Prosecutor General, the Office of the Government (no longer in existence) and the Security Council Working Group (which exists de jure, but some of its powers have been de facto transferred to the Anti-Corruption Business Council). The Anti-Corruption Business Council has consultative status, but performs such functions as the development of the draft anti-corruption strategy as if it has the powers of a state body. The creation of the Anti-Corruption Business Council by Presidential decree without any amendments made to the Law on Countering Corruption created uncertainty as to the status, powers and responsibilities of the Council.
Public Sector Employment
A distinctive feature of modern legislation in the field of state civil service and municipal service is that all appointments in Kyrgyzstan are made from the personnel reserve of the state body and local self-government. Under the 2021 law ‘On the state civil service and municipal service’, the civil service model has become closed. According to previous laws on civil service from 2004 and 2016, the civil service in the Kyrgyz Republic was competitive-career (mixed), which met the constitutional principles of equal access of citizens to public service and career advancement. Despite ongoing reforms, and even an increase in the salaries of civil servants, the existing system of selection, career advancement, and training hasn’t ensured full effectiveness from public sector employees.
Codes of Conduct and Asset Declarations
Kyrgyzstan has adopted codes of conduct for civil servants, judges, prosecutors, and parliamentarians. Ethics commissions have been set up in state bodies. However, the adopted codes and established ethics commissions do not ensure the proper, conscientious behavior and integrity of officials. The law ‘On Conflict of Interest’ “does not provide for an effective mechanism for its implementation,” according to the OECD, because when it was adopted, restrictive decision-making rules concerning the potential involvement of relatives and what can give rise to a conflict of interest, were removed.
Legislation in the Kyrgyz Republic prescribes limits for the ceilings and time periods of campaign spending. The Central Election Commission (CEC) publishes estimates of election campaign costs on its official website, as well as reports on the use of funds for the organization and holding of elections. A new page (talpker.shailoo.gov.kg) was launched in 2020 to provide open access to data, including financial details on candidates and political parties taking part in elections. Nevertheless, information published on these pages is not detailed enough and the government is unable to ensure the independence of political finance monitoring bodies such as the CEC itself, as well as special working groups dedicated to this topic.
Although a new law on public procurement was developed based on the active participation of multiple stakeholders involving public discussions and the support of international organizations, it has excluded from its ambit state and municipal enterprises and joint-stock companies, where 50% or more of the share in authorized capital belongs to the state, including their subsidiaries. This is a significant drawback for countering corruption in public procurement, and the new law undermines previous efforts of the state to implement Open Government Programme commitments in this area.
Legal provisions for recording, storing and ensuring the integrity of accounting books, records, financial statements and other relevant documents exist in the Kyrgyz Republic. Yet in practice, implementation is poor. In 2020, the Council of the Accounts Chamber conducted a compliance audit, through which it found that financial violations had taken place, to the tune of 17.6 million soms (215,000 euro).
Reporting Mechanisms and Whistleblower Protection
UN requirements for the protection of persons reporting corruption offenses are not fully taken into account in the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic. The Law from 2019 ‘On the Protection of Persons Who Reported Corruption Offenses’ legally regulates this issue, but in practice there has not been a single case of its application. Despite the adopted law, the state is not ready to provide a real mechanism for the protection of persons who have reported acts of corruption. It is known that reporting persons are likely to either be dismissed or fired from their job, or forced to flee the country. In some cases, they are even killed.
Access to Information & Civil Society Participation
The Access to Information legal framework fails to provide for the overriding of the right to information over the secrecy and legitimate interests of the state. Courts often support such secrecy by making decisions on the basis of by-laws that provide classification of secret information. Government bodies and agencies often fail to follow set timetables in providing responses to public requests, the quality of responses is low in many cases, and the sanctions for failure to provide information are not determined.
Meanwhile, the persecution of independent media and bloggers is on the rise, with the intensification of criminal prosecution and liquidation of media outlets. Human Rights Watch stated that Kyrgyz authorities have stepped up the harassment of journalists and independent media with a slew of criminal investigations into their work in recent months. This is a direct violation of Kyrgyzstan’s commitments under UNCAC Article 13.
Judiciary and Prosecution Services
Constitutionally and legally, interference in the administration of justice is prohibited. However, in practice, the judicial system of the Kyrgyz Republic cannot be seen as independent. OSCE observers to the 2021 Constitution referendum expressed concern about Article 70, which fully empowers the President to appoint judges at all levels. New technologies and an integration of information systems have the potential to increase the transparency of the judicial system in the future, however, real progress remains to be seen, especially in light of several cases of the judiciary clearly demonstrating its political bias.
Private Sector Transparency
Private sector transparency in Kyrgyzstan is ensured by publicly accessible registries such as the registry of legal entities, which is easily searchable and provides several different details about legal entities or individual persons. The registry of beneficial owners was recently introduced, based on the implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative’s standards on the disclosure of beneficial owners under the subsoil legislation. Nevertheless, there is a lack of full information in the registry of legal entities, the registry of beneficial owners is not yet accessible to the public, and only certain state officials have access.
Kyrgyz authorities can provide the widest possible mutual legal assistance and extradition in a timely manner in connection with investigations, prosecutions and other procedures related to money laundering, terrorist financing and predicate offenses. Yet, law enforcement agencies are poorly versed in the methods of preventing, detecting and investigating crimes in the field of ML/TF. The number of money laundering investigations and convictions is low. Parallel financial investigations are sporadic. There is no comprehensive national strategy to identify and confiscate proceeds of crime.
International Cooperation for purposes of Confiscation
An interdepartmental working group has been set up under the leadership of the Prosecutor General’s Office to search for and return stolen assets. Kyrgyzstan is also a member of the Interagency Network for Asset Recovery in Western and Central Asia (ARIN WCA). Trainings and interregional meetings are held on a regular basis on the issues of tracing, freezing and confiscation of assets. With the assistance of the US, 4.6 million USD of 6 million under forfeiture order and linked to the family of the former President of KR has been recovered by the Kyrgyz government.
Bilateral and Multilateral Agreements and Arrangements
Since 2009, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of Kyrgyzstan has been a member of the international Egmont Group of FIUs and is recognized by the international community as a separate state body of Kyrgyzstan. Within the framework of international cooperation, KR actively cooperates with international organizations such as the UNODC, EU, OSCE and USAID, among others. It has cooperation agreements with FIUs in more than 30 countries and individual subjects of the FATF, which are key economic and trade partners of the country.
In its report, the Central Asian Research Institute on Corruption and Money Laundering makes several recommendations to authorities to ensure the full implementation of the UNCAC in Kyrgyzstan, among them:
- Develop the Anti-Corruption Strategy on the basis of serious research conducted with the participation of state bodies, think tanks, academia, CSOs and business associations. The Strategy should include a detailed action plan, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, and have an annual review mechanism.
- Strengthen the country’s participation in international anti-corruption initiatives by fully implementing commitments under the OGP, EITI and FATF. There should be an objective to join GRECO set by political leadership.
- Establish a corruption prevention body. An assessment of the anti-corruption functions and powers of the respective state bodies should be conducted for their compliance with the UNCAC, including assessing the availability of expertise and resources, in accordance with international standards.
- Strengthen the role of CSOs and citizens in the development and implementation of anti-corruption policies, as well as countering corruption by using existing mechanisms and means of communication.
- Respect the right of access to information on a state level. All efforts should be made to demonstrate its priority over the protected interests of the state based on the application of harm and public interest tests.
- Stop persecution and harassment of journalists, other media personnel, bloggers and citizens investigating, writing, and sharing information about corrupt practices.
- Establish an adequate mechanism for the protection of whistleblowers, especially for the persons reporting corruption.
- Ensure that the Central Elections Committee has more independence in order to conduct effective administration of the elections process and monitoring of political financing.
- Ensure budget transparency and regularly provide detailed updates on each state and municipal body.
- Publish declarations of income, expenses, liabilities and property of state and municipal personnel and their close relatives.
- Ensure the judiciary’s independence from any political involvement: the control of these bodies by the President should be decreased.
- Strengthen legislation in compliance with the UNCAC and its implementation in the area of asset recovery, providing training to personnel in the respective state bodies responsible for the enforcement of asset recovery provisions. International asset recovery in corruption cases should be a priority for the political leadership of Kyrgyzstan.
More detailed recommendations are provided in Chapter VI of the report.Fullscreen Mode