The effectiveness of an anti-corruption taskforce in Honduras has again come under question, the latest depressing example of efforts to clean up the country falling flat.
Unnamed sources told newspaper La Prensa that the National Anti-Corruption Council had remained silent on blatant cases of corruption involving President Porfirio Lobo’s administration. These include incidents such as the irregular purchase of security cameras, Navy boats, and medicines for the public health service.
Various founding members have withdrawn their membership in recent years and La Prensa’s report states that others are planning to do the same in the near future. There have also been complaints of administrative irregularities and sexual harassment.
The Council was founded in 2001 with the aim of monitoring corruption in Honduras, and has traditionally been dominated by representatives from the Church and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). According to its website, it is made up of representatives from 12 civil society groups.
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Two of the institutions which helped establish the Council, the Catholic Church and a coalition of evangelical churches, withdrew their membership in 2010 and 2011 respectively, followed by a civil society organization, known as Foprideh, in 2012. This badly damaged the Council’s credibility in the public eye. According to a 2012 Vanderbilt University public opinion poll cited by La Prensa, the Council ranks among the least-trusted organizations in Honduras, alongside the police and the Court of Auditors. Meanwhile, the Evangelical and Catholic Church are the country’s most trusted institutions.
The Council’s ability to serve as an independent watchdog of government corruption has previously come under question, as some of its member coalitions have included state institutions. The Council also came under criticism after its former leader, Pastor Oswaldo Canales, openly supported the 2009 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
In Honduras, unfortunately, accusations that the body charged with uncovering corruption is ignoring cases at the highest level are unsurprising. Late last month the country’s Attorney General and his assistant resigned following accusations of financial irregularities in their office, illustrative of just how entrenched corruption is within Honduran society. Efforts to reform the police force — accused of much wrongdoing up to and including extrajudicial killings — have also been criticized for failing to advance.
Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perception Index, which looks at how corrupt a public sector is perceived to be, ranked Honduras at 133 out of 176 countries (with 176 the most corrupt).