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Corruption is a very high risk in Sudan, which is considered to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Public servants are known to demand extra facilitation payments for services that individuals or companies are legally entitled to. Government officials hold direct and indirect stakes in many enterprises, which creates a system of patronage and cronyism and distorts market competition to the disadvantage of foreign firm without political connections. Government officials are frequently involved in corrupt practices with impunity. The lack of transparency in Sudan retains the status quo both due to a weak administrative setup, which allows for poor record-keeping and lax budget handling, and due to the absence of legislation providing public access to government information. Active and passive bribery, gifts and facilitation payments are prohibited in the public sector, but enforcement is weak.
Last Update: May 2016
Corruption in the judicial system is a high risk for investors, both in the form of petty corruption as well as in the form of political interference. While the judiciary is institutionally differentiated, it is largely controlled by the executive. Recruitment processes are determined by acceptability to the regime and at times by systems of nepotism (BTI 2016). Companies must note, that court rulings are likely not to be objective, especially when it comes to politically sensitive cases or to high-level cases (ICS 2015). With the introduction of Sharia law, Islamic institutions in part replaced universities or colleges in the provision of legal training, resulting in new judges being less well-trained and often accused of hurried, corrupt and arbitrary justice (BTI 2016). Inefficiency in the courts is a challenge for foreign investors: Enforcing a contract takes on average 810 days which is a lot more than the Sub-Saharan African average of 653.1 days (DB 2016). In Darfur judges are reportedly often absent, thereby delaying trials and in rural areas judicial institutions are less accessible (HRR 2015). Judgements of foreign courts are not always respected (ICS 2015). The court systems in Sudan are considered a major obstacle by nine percent of surveyed firms (ES 2014).
Sudan is a member to the International Centre for Settlement of Disputes but has not signed the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
Corruption is a high risk in the police force, most commonly in the form of petty bribery. One in three surveyed citizens perceive the majority of the police to be corrupt and 17 percent report to have paid a bribe in the previous 12 months (Afrobarometer, Nov. 2015). The police can issue on-the-spot fines for traffic violations ranging between SDG 50 (USD eight) and SDG 100 (USD 16.30) – a practice that is supposed to relieve the burden on courts but ends up being abused frequently by police officers, who use the fines for their personal benefit and often ask violators for bribes to forgo such fines (All Africa, May 2016). Overall, police officers are poorly paid, and, reportedly many extort bribes to supplement their income (All Africa, May 2016).
Companies should note that Sudanese government officials and high-ranking police officials often have vested interests in state-owned enterprises, making them susceptible to corrupt practices (ICS 2015). Moreover, officials in the police, military or the National Intelligence Security Services (NISS) often have their own private enterprises, which receive favorable treatment from the government (ICS 2015). There is no legal system to report misconduct in the police and most citizens do not do so out of fear of reprisal (GI 2016). In 2013, a whistleblower provided information about graft in the police force and was consequently sentenced to 4 years in prison on charges including ruining the reputation of the police (FitW 2015).
Corruption is a very high risk for businesses when obtaining public services in Sudan. When it comes to public utilities, two in ten surveyed firms expects to give gifts to obtain an electrical connection and one in ten to get a water connection (ES 2014). Less common, but still a risk are bribes for operating licenses or general facilitation payments (ES 2014). Overall, a majority of Sudanese citizens perceive corruption in the public sector (TI, May 2016). Half of the surveyed citizens report experiences of bribery when obtaining public services in 2015 (TI, May 2016). Overall, obtaining visas, work permits, or similar requests are extremely burdensome, lengthy, and costly procedures for companies, especially for foreign ones and standards are not applied evenly (ICS 2015). Starting a business takes on average 36 days and is less costly than on regional average (DB 2016). The widespread extent of corruption leads people to report corruption less, especially as many find the officials they would report it to also be involved in it (TI, May 2016).
Corruption is a high risk in Sudan’s land administration. Dealing with construction permits takes longer than on regional average and (DB 2016) 40 percent of firms expect to give gifts to an official when obtaining a permit (ES 2014). Registering property, on the other hand, takes only 9 days (DB 2016). Nevertheless, authorities influencing judiciary decision-making and lack of transparency have resulted in problematic property rights protection (ICS 2015). Sudan’s land holds great agricultural potential, but the accelerated land acquisition by foreign investors is problematic for local farmers, who find their land rights disregarded (BTI 2016).
In 2014 allegations of illegal land sales effected an investigation to determine whether public land was sold at a comparatively cheap price to ineligible owners with government connections (Dabanga, Nov. 2014). The investigative committee was accused of being non-neutral and of failing to suggest legal recourse to hold those responsible for the illegal sales (Dabanga, Nov. 2014).
Corruption is a high risk in the Sudanese tax administration. Half of the surveyed citizens believe a majority of tax officials engage in corruption (TI, May 2016). At the same time, a comparatively low number of 3.2 percent of firms expects to give gifts in meetings with tax officials (ES 2014). Preparing, filing and paying taxes takes a business executive in Sudan on average 180 hours, which is a lot less than the 308 hour average of Sub-Saharan Africa (DB 2016).
There are no specific reports about corruption at the Sudanese border and customs administration. Nevertheless, companies are advised to exert caution when dealing with exports and imports, given that petty bribery and patronage systems are widespread in the country and likely to affect the customs administration as well. Trading across borders in Sudan is an onerous process for companies (DB 2016). Complying with border regulations and documentation requirements takes more time than it does on average in Sub-Saharan Africa and also costs significantly more (DB 2016).
Public procurement in Sudan presents companies with a very high risk of corruption. A system of patronage, cronyism, and nepotism distorts the market competition. The state has direct or indirect stakes in many enterprises and even owns many (ICS 2015). The NCP’s (National Congress Party) top leadership owns more than 164 companies, which have their pick of government contracts (FitW 2015). As many of public officials own and operate private enterprises they frequently receive favorable treatment from the government, which creates an uneven playing field for foreign or poorly-connected businesses (ICS 2015). Financial records of state-owned companies are not available to the public at large (GI 2016). A privatization policy has induced the transfer of a few companies, but many of these have been given to those close to the government, further reinforcing a crony capitalist system (BTI 2016). Members of the ruling NCP, especially those from favored ethnic groups, largely control Sudan’s economy and use their wealth from banking and business to buy political support (FitW 2015). There is a public procurement law, which demands that major public procurement projects go through a competitive bidding process and covers conflicts of interest for procurement officials, however, it is frequently disregarded in practice.
A further obstacle in public procurement for foreign companies is the lack of transparency in government regulations and budgets. Much of the national budget is spent on unspecified national security priorities (FitW 2015). The lack of accountability in the public budget was illustrated when in 2014, the Sudanese auditor-general reported that USD 58,403 million was stolen from the Ministry of Budget between 2013 and 2014 and that USD 3,812 million 2014 spent by diplomatic mission abroad were not accounted for (Dabanga, Dec. 2014). The discovery of the embezzlement did not lead to any action taken against the ministries (GI 2016). Overall, power and resources are concentrated in and around Khartoum, leaving other further outlying states neglected and impoverished (FitW 2015).
Companies are recommended to use a specialized public procurement due diligence tool to help mitigate the corruption risks associated with public procurement in Sudan.
Companies should note the very high risk of corruption and political interference in the natural resource sector. Just as in other sectors of the economy, there is a lack of transparency and accountability, leaving room for corrupt practices to take place without immediate repercussions. Even though financial records of state-owned companies are not commonly available to the public and even auditors, in 2014, the Sudanese auditor general reported “corrupt figures” in the oil sector (GI 2016). He estimated that 61 percent of the 196 oil companies operating in Sudan evade tax and accused the Ministry of Finance, and the Sudanese Oil Foundation of spending raw oil revenues to repay a Chinese loan for the Khartoum refinery without keeping accounts (Dabanga, Dec. 2014). Furthermore, he determined a mismatch in the oil accounts of 1996 to 2012, pointing to an amount of USD 628 billion that was classified as “operating expenses” (Dabanga, Dec. 2014). An economist in Sudan stated that the large part of oil revenues are not reported or deposited in the public treasury (Dabanga, Dec. 2014).
Sudan’s legislative framework pertaining anti-corruption is not very comprehensive and lacks enforcement. Officials suspected of corruption are usually not investigated and go unpunished (GI 2016). Corruption in the form of active and passive bribery of public officials is covered by the Sudanese Criminal Code. Additionally, the major forms of corrupt activity including extortion, criminal breach of trust, embezzlement and any other wrongdoing for personal enrichment regarding public property with which they are entrusted are criminalized in the public sector (GI 2016). High ranking officials are legally required to publicly disclose their income and assets, but sanctions for noncompliance are applied arbitrarily (HRR 2015). By law, whistleblowers in Sudan are protected from recrimination when reporting corruption, however, in practice, these provisions are not enforced, particularly if the person implicated in corruption has political connections (U4 2012).
Sudan ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and signed the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.
Freedom of the press and of expression press are given by law but in reality, these rights are not upheld. Censorship is strong in the country and a string of censorship cases after publications had already been printed puts a significant financial burden on media houses (FoP 2015). The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in 2012 routinely raid printing facilities and confiscate editions of a newspaper if publishing contents were found to violate the Press and Publication Act (FitW 2015). One example of this includes the daily newspaper El-Jareeda which ceased publication indefinitely after several seizures of print-runs, saying security services were trying to exhaust the newspapers financially, as they still have to pay staff and printing presses regardless of the seizures (The Guardian, Jun. 2015). There is no freedom of information law in Sudan, so access to public information is limited (FitW 2015). Journalists often face harassment and arbitrary arrest (FoP 2015). Overall, Sudan’s media environment is considered ‘not free’ (FoP 2015).
Civil society groups in Sudan do not have much room to operate as the government keeps a tight grip on them and even deliberately weakens it (BTI 2016). International organizations such as the United Nations UNAMID mission is largely ineffective as the government restricts their entry to areas affected by conflict and harasses the mission’s personnel (HRW 106). Freedom of assembly, which is granted by law, is recurrently curtailed and there are several reports of security forces attacking protests (FitW 2015). The NISS furthermore intimidates private citizens, in order to keep them from engaging in private discussions on political issues (FitW 2015).
- Bertelsmann Foundation: Bertelsmann Transformation Index 2016.
- World Bank: Doing Business 2016.
- Global Integrity: Africa Integrity Indicators – Sudan 2016.
- Human Rights Watch: World Report – Sudan 2016.
- Transparency International: “People and Corruption: Middle East and North Africa Survey 2016“, 3 May 2016.
- All Africa: “Sudan: Traffic Police Corrupt With On-the-Spot Fines”, 16 May 2016.
- US Department of State: Investment Climate Statement – Sudan 2015.
- US Department of State: Country Report on Human Rights Practices – Sudan 2015.
- Freedom House: Freedom of the Press 2015.
- Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2015.
- Afrobarometer: AD56: Police corruption in Africa undermines trust, but support for law enforcement remains strong, 2 November 2015.
- The Guardian: “Sudan seizes another daily newspaper, making 2015 worst year for country’s media”, 30 June 2015.
- World Bank: Enterprise Survey – Sudan 2014.
- World Economic Forum: The Global Enabling Trade Report 2014.
- Dabanga: “Sudan’s auditor-general reports ‘corrupt figures'”, 17 December 2014.
- Dabanga: “‘Corruption in Nyala land selling’: South Dafur committee”, 6 November 2014.