Corruption in Lebanon continues to be a grim reality even with laws enacted for anti-corruption. Corruption is widespread in Lebanon, permeating all sectors alike. As reported by Transparency International, Lebanon ranked 138 out of 175 countries in the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index  In this article, we make an attempt to understand the underlying causes of corruption in Lebanon and the legal framework to address the problem.
Corruption in Lebanon: Reasons
Apart from being a social malaise, corruption also hampers the growth of a nation. It also challenges a democratic system and also hampers human development. Therefore, the battle against corruption is a necessity. In order to eradicate corruption from any nation or society, it is imperative to understand the causes of corruption.
The political environment of Lebanon has been polarised since 2008 . The political instability coupled with the strained relations with the neighbouring countries has impacted the economic development of Lebanon . As per the report published by the Bertelmanns Foundation, pervasive clientelism is at the core of the Lebanon’s political system which has led to widespread corruption and nepotism in Lebanon .As per the report published by the Bertelmanns Foundation, pervasive clientelism is at the core of the Lebanon’s political system which has led to widespread corruption and nepotism in Lebanon Click To Tweet
Commentators note the origins of clientelism to feudal times when the feudal lord allowed the peasants to use land in exchange for loyalty. In the present times, the feudal lord has been replaced by a political leader, the peasants have been replaced by the citizens of Lebanon and instead of land, favours are provided in lieu of electoral loyalty .In the present times, the feudal lord has been replaced by a political leader, the peasants have been replaced by the citizens of Lebanon and instead of land, favours are provided in lieu of electoral loyalty Click To Tweet
Is sectarian politics responsible for corruption in Lebanon?
It has also been noted that Lebanon’s political system is completely based on a power sharing arrangement. The Taif Agreement of 1989, otherwise known as the Document of National Accord, consolidated the sectarianism . The division is on the basis of sectarian division between all the different religious communities in Lebanon. Lebanon has 18 different recognized religious communities and nearly 100 political parties represent these communities . There is little or no regulation of these political parties and complete absence of accountability. Therefore, political corruption is weaved into the fabric of the Lebanese society.There is little or no regulation of these political parties and complete absence of accountability. Therefore, political corruption is weaved into the fabric of the Lebanese society. Click To Tweet
There is also lack of accountability of the government officials and the colossal failure of the government to provide for the basic needs of the citizens of Lebanon. People of Lebanon view the political parties to be plagued with institutional corruption .
Are there any laws to address the issue of corruption?
A number of laws in Lebanon include provisions targeted to penalize corruption. Set out below is an overview of the legal framework :
- Decree Law No.112 dated 12 June 1956 governing the Organization of Public Servants .
- the Lebanese Criminal Code (the “Criminal Code”). Articles 351 which apply to public servants who commit fraud or corruption; and
- Law No.154 dated 27/12/1999 relating to unlawful enrichment;
What do the laws provide?
The anti-corruption laws of Lebanon penalize both giving and receiving a bribe. Individuals and corporations alike can be held criminally liable for accepting bribes.
Article 15.7 of the Decree Law prohibits public servants “from requesting or receiving, directly or through the intermediary of another person, by reason of the function they hold, gifts, gratifications or incentives of whatever nature.” Articles 351 of the Criminal Code applies to public servants who commit fraud or corruption.The Criminal Code also prohibits the acceptance of gifts or benefits by private sector employees in order to reveal confidential information or act with the intent to harm the company.
Can a foreign public official be prosecuted under Lebanese laws?
However, the act of bribing foreign public officials and officials of public international organizations is not a criminal offence under Lebanese law. This is surprising given that Lebanon is a party to UN Convention Against Corruption by ratifying the Convention in 2009. As per the Convention, signatories are required to provide legislative and other measures to prohibit bribery of foreign public officials .the act of bribing foreign public officials and officials of public international organizations is not a criminal offence under Lebanese law. Click To Tweet
Are there any authorities who can investigate crimes related to corruption?
In addition to the laws, there are also a number of authorities in Lebanon who are responsible for investigation and combat of corruption committed by public officials. These include the Public Accounts Overseeing Court, the Central Inspection Body, the Judicial Inspection Body and the Public Prosecution Office .
However, these authorities do not have any jurisdiction to investigate crimes which have been committed overseas. In the event an act which is penalized by the Criminal Code has been committed overseas, then the Lebanese courts can exercise jurisdiction on satisfaction of certain conditions.
Are there any obligations under the law to be a whistleblower in case of corruption?
Such an obligations has been imposed on the public servants. As per Article 399 of the Criminal Code: “Every public servant who has failed to inform, or postponed informing, the competent authorities about a felony or a misdemeanour he becomes aware of during the performance of his duties shall be sanctioned by a fine”.
Major loopholes in the law
There are several gaping holes in the legal framework. Though political corruption is at the heart of the issues in Lebanon, political parties and individual candidates are not required to disclose campaign financial statements. There is no requirement to identify campaign donors and accounts of political parties are not subject to independent scrutiny . Similarly, there is very little transparency when it comes to the accounts of the high-level politicians because they enjoy a certain patronage. This brings us back to the fact that clientelism is one of the major causes of corruption in Lebanon.
The new government which has taken office since January 31, 2019 has abolished the post of the minister in charge for anti-corruption. in 2016, Lebanon had established a Ministry of Combating Corruption but the political instability and government disruptions slowed its work . It is understood that the parliament is now working on a new anti-corruption legislation. The parliament has also approved the constitution of the Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission. The goal is to create a national commission to investigate allegations of public sector corruption and oversee the implementation of corruption-related laws . However, the commission is yet to be established. One hopes that once the commission comes into full force and effect, it will encourage more whistleblowers to come forward and report incidents of corruption.