Nurali Dawlat: “Tajikistan: Corruption is a key to everything”
“Corruption accompanies a Tajik citizen from birth to the grave. Periodicals in Tajikistan are full of articles exposing corruption in hospitals, schools, universities, banks, courts, customs, tax authorities, etc.”, said Nurali Dawlat, journalist-analyst (Dushanbe, Tajikistan), in an article written for Cabar.asia. Once in a company of friends, one government official asked me why I did not work in government agencies? I answered honestly that I could not take bribes. He smiled and said: “We could not either… in the beginning, but then we were taught…”
Many representatives of the middle and older generation remember the Soviet era, when government officials lived almost like all the other residents. In contrast to today’s “servants of the people”, Tajik Soviet officials often did not take bribes. And not just because they firmly believed in the holy ideals of communism. The reason was extremely simple. They knew that if somebody sent a complaint against them to Moscow, they would definitely be punished. There were enough examples of that in our history.
Many still remember the case of the so-called “cotton records” in 1961, when the first secretary of the Communist Party of Tajikistan Tursun Uldzhabaev was fired from his post. Knowledgeable people say that there were not any violations. Moscow simply made such “cleansings” from time to time to remind the red bosses in Muslim republics who was the principal boss.
The most high-profile corruption criminal proceeding in the Tajik SSR was instigated in the second half of the 1970s against 15 teachers of today’s Pedagogical University named after Aini. All of them got various terms, and the rector of the university Kandil Juraev, a well known Tajik scientist, was dismissed. However, I should note that many teachers did not take bribes at that time. They thought it scorn to do it.
Problems in the legislation
We cannot say that the government is not fighting this phenomenon, but the situation is getting worse every year.
A well-known economist in Tajikistan, professor Hojimahmad Umarov, believes that the level of corruption has reached such proportions that it is now becoming a “threat to national security”. 
Tajikistan has ratified all international legal instruments relating to the eradication of corruption. In 2005, it adopted a new Law on the fight against corruption, the Strategy for Combating Corruption, in 2007, there was established a separate department within the structure of presidential power – the Agency for State Financial Control and Combating Corruption of the Republic of Tajikistan. 
In addition, a variety of structures are currently fighting against corruption in Tajikistan, including the bodies of the Prosecutor’s Office, the Interior Ministry, the Tax Committee, customs, military authorities and others. However, corruption is so much present in all spheres of the country, that all of these measures are not enough. Apparently, the process of improvement of national legislation will continue. In any case, the partners of the Tajik government are hoping for that.
In recent years, the problem of improvement of the legislation was repeatedly discussed with representatives of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
At the end of November 2014, international experts of anti-corruption unit of this organization said that Tajikistan fully implemented only four of the 17 recommendations, partially – 12, and one was not implemented at all.
This organization recommended that the Tajik government should conduct a thorough and comparative analysis of the Criminal Code, the Law “On Combating Corruption”, Code of Administrative Offences and other relevant legislation of the Republic of Tajikistan and harmonize criminal and administrative anti-corruption laws of the country according to its results. 
But the official Dushanbe believes that the OECD guidelines require a fundamental change in the legislation of Tajikistan, since these requirements are not consistent with our legal system. According to the former head of the Anti-Corruption Agency Fattokh Saidov (after changing the name and surname – Abdufattoh Goib.- author’s note), the recommendations to criminalize all forms of bribery, i.e promises to pay a bribe and promise to accept it, or to bring legal persons to criminal responsibility, on the whole does not meet the basics of criminal law and the Constitution of Tajikistan. At the same time, he believes that some of the recommendations of the OECD are controversial, i.e their implementation takes place both in practice and in the legislation of our country. 
A few years ago, Abdufattoh Goib admitted that “the so-called small” errors do not lead to “criminal liability”, otherwise we would not find room for all criminals in prisons of the republic” .
Konstantin Bondarenko, an expert on economic issues, believes that the problem lies in the fact that, having inherited the Soviet system of law, Tajikistan was trying to adapt it to modern conditions. But as a result of this synthesis, the republic has not developed a legal culture, which is called “the rule of law” in the developed countries.
Reasons for systemic corruption
The fact that corruption in Tajikistan has become a system was first recognized 10 years ago in a special research made by the employees of the Centre for Strategic Studies (CSS) under the President of Tajikistan. Subsequently, the CSS conducted two other studies that have shown that corruption in Tajikistan is gaining momentum.
Experts believe that the main reason is that there is no public control and accountability of officials in the country because of the weakness of civil society.
Lawyer Shokirjon Khakimov, deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party, claims that Tajikistan has ratified an international convention to combat corruption, implemented its main provisions in the legislation, but because of the lack of parliamentary and public control, wrong personnel policies and weakness of democratic institutions, Tajikistan failed to reduce corruption relations in the country.
According to him, contrary to the requirements of the Convention, citizens have no way of knowing about the income and property of public servants.
Strong local authorities, weak accountability even to the closest management team and low salaries of the bureaucracy contribute to the widespread corruption.
Khakimov believes that officials are given too much freedom, and too many people are dependent on their work. Normative legal acts regulating the activities of state bodies on the issue of certificates, licenses and various registration procedures create favorable conditions for corruption relations, he said.
Corruption is traditionally strong in a poor country, where the government has extensive powers, said Bondarenko. “If an official has the right to solve a large range of issues, a lot of officials are needed to solve them. At the same time, the low level of their official earnings naturally transform into the need to use corruption to improve their living standards”, said Bondarenko.
Another Tajik expert Ali Mastov is convinced that the main reason for the spread of corruption in Tajikistan is the lack of political competition, free elections at all levels, independent courts and media, as well as the lack of fiscal transparency and the state apparatus swollen to epic proportions.
“All of the above gives rise to a sense of impunity, and impunity, in turn, generates all-permissiveness that unfortunately, has become a normal thing in our lives”, says Ali Mastov.
Corruption is everywhere
Corruption accompanies Tajik citizen from birth to the grave. It is very easy to verify this. Periodicals in Tajikistan are full of articles exposing corruption in hospitals, schools, universities, banks, courts, customs, tax authorities, etc. This is probably one of the few topics when journalists are not accused that they execute someone’s order from abroad.
During the past report press conference for journalists on July 27 of this year, Deputy Naimӣ Alamhon Kodiriyon said that 1,041 of corruption offenses were detected during six months.
According to the tradition established in the last decade, the Tajik media annually rank the most corrupt ministries and agencies on the results of the work of the Anti-corruption agency. In the first half of 2015, the most corrupt organizations were the banking system (100 facts of corruption), the Ministry of Education and Science (53), the Ministry of health and social protection (45), the Ministry of the Interior (37), the Ministry of Justice (26), and the Ministry of agriculture (26).
It should be noted that the Ministries of Education and Science and Health and Social Protection are leaders in this ranking over the last few years.
In all other public institutions, there were also identified violations.
On July 23, the Chairman of the Customs Committee Abdufattokh Goib said that some entrepreneurs reduce twice the cost of imported goods through forgery. He says that, according to the statistics from China Customs, during six months, there were imported goods for $ 257 million to Tajikistan it, but according to Tajik data, this sum is 132 million dollars total.
On July 24, the news agency “Ozodagon” reported that it was not clear what happened to the 500,000 of grant funds in the Committee for Women’s Affairs, which were allocated by the government for women-entrepreneurs. Employees of the Agency for Fight against corruption and the Audit Chamber are now involved in the investigation of this case.
The scandal, which happened in May this year in the Committee of Youth, Tourism and Sports, included this agency in the “black list” of the Global Fund to Fight HIV / AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Representatives of this international organization reported the missing $116,726 of $300,000 dollar grant allocated to the Committee on Youth through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Global Fund demanded Tajikistan to return the missing amount.
According to the rating of the international organization TransparencyInternational, Tajikistan is one of the top 20 most corrupt countries in the world. 2014 was no exception. In 2013, Tajikistan was on the 154th place (out of 175 countries). In 2014, the country fell to 182nd place among 197 countries in the world.
The fight against corruption is ineffective
Corruption in the country has reached such a high level that it can no longer be ignored.
In mid-February of this year, at a meeting of the Security Council, President Emomali Rakhmon sharply criticized the work of the Agency for State Financial Control and Combating Corruption. He accused the agency staff of complicity in corruption, in particular, the involvement in illegal transactions with the land. As a result of inspections in recent years, there have been identified financial losses totaling more than $ 1 billion Somoni, but only 633 million somoni have been returned to the budget, which is slightly more than half.
For 8 years of existence of the Agency for fight against corruption, no senior official has been detained or arrested.
Although at their time, the first leaders of this department Sherkhon Salimzoda Abdufattokh Goibov argued that ministers of education and health Abdujabbor Rakhmonov and Rano Abdurakhmanova were dismissed at the recommendation of their Agency. But then they were simply demoted. Last year, the former Minister Abdujabbor Rakhmonov became an assistant of the President (actually State Counsellor).
Now, the President appointed his eldest son Rustam Emomali as chief fighter against corruption in the country.
The ineffectiveness of measures to fight widespread corruption has led to the fact that it has become part of the culture of the current Tajik society. Citizens have become so accustomed to this phenomenon that they prefer to pay bribes or kickbacks to officials, but not to deal with “red tape”, standing in line, “kicking” from one office to another. Impunity was the reason that officials in government structures believe that they are small princes and are not afraid to openly extort bribes and kickbacks.
In a country like Tajikistan, the political will of the first person can solve many problems. It should be understood that corruption, when a huge part of the capital is deposited in the pockets of officials, is leading to a widening gap between the rich and the poor rather than to replenishing the state treasury, serving the development and improving the economic well-being of all the people,. And this, in turn, sooner or later leads to social conflict between them.
– It is necessary to conduct active propaganda against corruption, starting with kindergartens and secondary schools to the widespread use of television and other media.
– The introduction of e-government will help avoid the contact of officials with the potential briber. It is necessary to accelerate the introduction of this method in the country.
– The Agency for the fight against corruption should be an independent body. Being in charge of the executive power, it will not be interested in dealing with officials in the highest echelons of power. In addition, it is necessary to raise wages to employees of the Agency in order to avoid the temptation of bribery.
– To strengthen the control over incomes of officials. They have to prove that their property was not purchased for bribes.
– To strengthen democratic institutions, constitutionalism and parliamentarianism, and to decentralize power.
Instead of an epilogue:
A few years ago, one of my friends decided to emigrate abroad. I asked him why he, such a zealous patriot, suddenly decided to leave his homeland forever. He said he did not see any prospects for himself or for children.
– My children, at best scenario, will be guest workers, and I will survive for a very miserable pension when I get old.
He sadly added that, now, in our sovereign democratic and legal state, it is not about people, but all about corruption and nepotism.
– Corruption in Tajikistan is immortal, so I do not want to live in such conditions, he concluded.
Nurali Dawlat, journalist-analyst
The views of the author do not necessarily reflect the views CABAR.asia