A new report on mismanagement and lack of transparency within Honduras’ security apparatus highlights the threat of corruption coming from within weak government institutions.
Conducted by the Association for a More Just Society (ASJ) — the Honduran chapter of Transparency International — the report examined transparency and accountability in Honduras’ Security Ministry. ASJ identified problems in the ministry’s purchasing of equipment and awarding of contracts, as well as its management of human resources.
Looking at the ministry’s equipment contracts and purchases, ASJ noted poor compliance with regulations and protocols. These tenders and purchases were often rushed, with the ministry overpaying suppliers and service providers, who under delivered.
For example, bidding on a project to build six police stations was carried out in only 15 days. In another instance officials gave no explanation for choosing Latin American Armor Company as a provider for 13 armored trucks. The ministry paid over $1.5 million to the company even though it did not offer the lowest bid. Moreover, only four of the trucks are currently in the ministry’s possession, ASJ found.
The report found similarly poor levels of compliance when it came to hiring and firing Security Ministry employees. Of recently hired police, ASJ found only 43 percent (100 out of 230) had passed all the requirements of the police certification process. Additionally, 18 percent of these new hires failed at least one part of the process, such as background checks or polygraph tests, and “should not have been hired.”
In terms of firings, some police officers continued to collect salaries even after being terminated. ASJ also found “vast differences” in police termination databases, with media claims by officials that 3,000 corrupt police had been purged inconsistent with the data reviewed.
In response to the report’s findings, Honduras’ Security Ministry released an improvement plan, which is “to be monitored and evaluated in a consistent and systemic way” every six months by the ASJ and Transparency International.
InSight Crime Analysis
State corruption in Central America is often framed within the context of criminals threatening and influencing officials. Yet ASJ’s report highlights how corruption can emanate from within weak state institutions themselves.
In this instance, the common theme in the ASJ’s audits of Honduras’ Security Ministry is poor oversight and accountability. Poor oversight allowed officials to act outside of regulations, while poor accountability meant little or no punishment was meted out once corruption and mismanagement came to light. A result of this failure to address corruption and mismanagement is a lack of incentive for improvement, perpetuating institutional weakness.
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Honduras’ security agencies, particularly their police, have been habitually corrupt. Over the years, police reform has been an intractable issue that has encountered persistent resistance, even from police themselves. This leaves little room for optimism the ASJ’s findings will lead to Honduras’ Security Ministry being able to stamp out corruption and improve transparency.