Escaping the Conflict Trap: Promoting Good Governance in the Congo

Posted in Africa | 21-Jul-06 | Source: International Crisis Group

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s strides toward peace could prove short-lived if the government and donors do not increase efforts to create a transparent and accountable government. State institutions such as parliament, courts, the army and the civil service remain weak and corrupt. The national elections scheduled for 30 July 2006 risk creating a large class of disenfranchised politicians and former warlords tempted to take advantage of state weakness and launch new insurgencies. Donors must initiate new programs in support of good governance that include more funding to strengthen state institutions (in particular parliament and the various auditing bodies), as well as apply more political pressure to make sure reforms are implemented.

The Congolese state has suffered from corruption since independence. The logic of the 2002 peace agreement, which established the current political transition, has brought problems of governance into sharp relief. Senior positions in the administration and state-run enterprises were shared between signatories, and state resources were siphoned off to fund election campaigns and private accounts. Between 60 and 80 per cent of customs revenues are estimated to be embezzled, a quarter of the national budget is not properly accounted for, and millions of dollars are misappropriated in the army and state-run companies. The mining sector is particularly prone to corruption, with valuable concessions granted with little legitimate benefit to the state.

These governance problems have an immediate impact on the humanitarian situation. Unpaid soldiers harass and intimidate civilians. Factions within the army and government continue to fight over mines and control of border crossings. The displaced civilians have almost no health services to fall back on, and 1,000 or more die daily as a result.

While international attention has concentrated on elections, the other elements of a stable democracy are weak or missing, including the necessary checks on executive power. Parliament is poorly funded and divided, mirroring the weakness of political parties. Parliamentary inquiries lack necessary resources and expertise to be effective. The judiciary is deeply politicised and inadequately funded. Not a single official has been tried during the transition for corruption. Presidential and legislative candidates should have – but have not – presented detailed plans for addressing corruption in customs, public finance and natural resources.

The incoming government will offer new opportunities for improving governance. The president, parliament and local governing bodies will be democratically elected and in theory accountable to their constituencies. Twenty-six provinces are to be created out of the current eleven, each with locally elected provincial assemblies, and to manage 40 per cent of national revenues raised on their territories. Three new high courts will replace the current Supreme Court. But without international support and funding, these institutions will remain largely a shell.

Donors have treated corruption as a technical problem and emphasised data management systems, training programs and laws. They have shied away from the more political aspects, such as strengthening parliament, courts and anti-corruption and auditing bodies. They finance more than half the national budget and should do more to press charges against corruption suspects, make sure the government complies with the mining code and hold multinational corporations accountable for violating national and international norms.

A complete overhaul of the approach to good governance is needed after the elections, with much greater focus on strengthening institutions, especially parliament and courts. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper the new government is to publish later this year is already substantially prepared but it should be supplemented by more detail on anti-corruption initiatives and parliamentary capacity building. Major donors should then launch plans to promote governance over a five-year period and at the same time create a successor group to the International Committee for the Support of the Transition to coordinate their actions and their pressure on the incoming government to implement the promised reforms.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the Incoming Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

1. Fund parliamentary commissions sufficiently and cooperate with their investigations.

2. Strengthen the judiciary by supporting legislation to guarantee the independence of the courts and by funding them adequately.

3. Complete a census to get ghost officials off payrolls and raise salaries of civil servants above the poverty level.

4. Create a National Program in Support of Governance to coordinate all actions on behalf of good governance, headed by an anti-corruption czar appointed by the president upon proposal of parliament and provided with sufficient means to carry out the duties.

5. Promote accountability and transparency in the management of natural resources by:

(a) creating a sub-commission within the National Program in Support of Governance to apply the criteria of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, including publishing all financial transactions between companies and the government;

(b) incorporating the provisions of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative into domestic law;

(c) licensing an international NGO to monitor implementation of the mining and forestry codes, in collaboration with the Ministry of Mines and the Mining Inspection;

(d) providing the anti-corruption czar and the sub-commission for natural resources with websites on which to publish all payments and mining contracts between the government and private companies and to which complaints can be submitted; and

(e) installing truck scales for mineral ore at border crossings and laboratory equipment for mineral analysis.

6. Create an international oversight body within the National Program in Support of Governance and deploy international personnel in all government oversight bodies.

7. Create a cell within the Ministry of Finance responsible for recording and investigating the declarations of assets made by members of government before and after their tenure.

8. Carry out the decentralisation outlined in the constitution by:

(a) setting up a commission within the Ministry of the Interior to plan and implement creation of the 26 new provinces and their provincial assemblies; and

(b) creating local offices for the state auditor and financial inspector, as well as for the National Program in Support of Governance initiated in the government’s anticipated Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.

To Presidential and Legislative Candidates in the 30 July 2006 Elections:

9. Present detailed programs on how to reduce corruption, in particular in public finances, customs and natural resources.

To the Incoming Parliament:

10. Discuss, during the first session, the Lutundula Commission report on contracts signed during the two wars and renegotiate or cancel mining and forestry contracts that are not in the state’s interest.

11. Create a permanent parliamentary commission on natural resources to review contracts signed since 30 June 2003 and monitor compliance with the mining and forestry codes as well as management of revenues in the mining and forestry sectors.

To Congolese Civil Society:

12. Address issues of governance and corruption through pressure on national and provincial elected representatives, including by tracking their voting records.

13. Put more focus on corruption, including by conducting advocacy based on Congolese laws, as well as on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Convention on Combating Bribery, the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, and the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

14. Create an NGO network dedicated specifically to governance issues with a regularly updated website.

To the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund:

15. Work with the government to ensure that, in accordance with Article 46 of the mining code, titles to state-owned mining fields are granted through open tenders.

16. Promote transparency and environmental protection in the forestry industry by:

(a) encouraging the government to enforce the moratorium on concessions;

(b) completing the zoning exercise to distinguish lands available for industrial logging from those reserved for community activities and environmental protection; and

(c) contracting an NGO to work with the Ministry of Environment to monitor compliance with the forestry law and ensure that tax revenues flow back to local communities and concessions granted comply with the zoning exercise.

17. Participate in a group with major governmental donors to coordinate funding and other actions, in particular in the field of good governance.

18. Increase funding to state anti-corruption bodies, including the proposed National Program in Support of Governance, the State Auditor, the Financial Inspectorate and parliamentary commissions.

To France, the UK, the U.S., Belgium, South Africa, the EU, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank and Other Major Donors:

19. Form a new donors group on good governance to coordinate funding and policy advice to the new government, regularly discuss governance issues with key ministries and government anti-corruption bodies and work closely with the proposed National Program in Support of Governance.

20. Put together a five-year donor plan, based on the new government’s anticipated Poverty Reduction Strategy Plan and the United Nations Development Program’s Congo Action Plan, that conditions a substantial funding increase on steps to increase accountability and reduce corruption and includes:

(a) funding for parliamentary commissions at the national and provincial level, in particular the commissions on natural resources and economic and financial affairs;

(b) reform of the judiciary, including an emergency plan for the East and support for setting up the new High Court of Appeals, Constitutional Court and State Council;

(c) placement of international personnel in major anti-corruption bodies;

(d) support for the creation of 26 provincial assemblies within three years, including funding for infrastructure and training; and

(e) direct financial and technical support to the State Auditor, the Army Inspectorate and the Financial Inspectorate.

21. Contract an international auditing firm to train and advise the Ministry of Finance cell in charge of recording and investigating government officials’ asset declarations.

To Major Investors and Trade Partners of the Congo, including Belgium, France, the U.S., South Africa, China, Germany, Portugal and the UK:

22. Use export credits to promote accountability with national companies by granting them only to companies that disclose all payments to governments and demonstrate respect for international and domestic laws and norms, including environmental, labour and anti-bribery laws and norms.

To the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC):

23. Create a cell within the Political Affairs Division to monitor and report on good governance in coordination with donors.

Nairobi/Brussels, 20 July 2006

Africa Report N°114

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