Madagascar anti-corruption courts – aiming for effectiveness and independence

By Florian Schatz, advisor to BIANCO / GIZ-CIM integrated expert

Since its creation in 2004, Madagascar’s Independent Anti-Corruption Bureau (Bureau Indépendant Anti-Corruption – BIANCO) has investigated and submitted over 3000 corruption cases to the courts. Upon reception, however, the courts have released the large majority of suspects, and while data on convictions is not available, they are reported to be extremely rare. To overcome this weakness in Madagascar’s anti-corruption system, the country has embarked on establishing specialised anti-corruption courts – Pôles Anti-Corruption (PAC) – in the capital Antananarivo and the five provincial capitals.

The PACs are separate, stand-alone units within the judicial hierarchy, consisting both of original/first instance and appellate jurisdictions and a division for the seizure and confiscation of assets. The PACs can only hear cases brought by anti-corruption authorities or organisations and associations whose statutes define in their objective the fight against corruption. The appellate decisions of the PACs are subject to appeal before the Supreme Court. Staffing of one PAC includes 10 judges, 8 public prosecutors, and 12 clerks plus administrative staff. All corruption and money laundering offenses fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the PAC as well as a wide range of other serious and/or complex economic and financial crimes.

To guarantee the effectiveness and independence of the PACs, a number of measures have been introduced:

  1. A committee of anti-corruption institution members and civil society representatives pre-select the PACs' national coordinator, magistrates, and clerks – following an open call for applications.
  2. Extensive background checks are conducted and the superior magistrate council (Conseil Supérieur de la Magistrature) and the government nominate the final PAC members out of a list of three candidates per position.
  3. PAC staff are paid more than twice as much as in the conventional judiciary and receive extensive specialised training.
  4. Members of the PACs also have renewable mandates of four years and cannot be removed unless the committee confirms serious misconduct.
  5. The PACs receive a fixed budget and are independent in its utilisation.

While the law establishing the PACs already came into force in August 2016, the first PAC of Antananarivo will only be established in early 2018, while the five other provincial PACs will likely follow from 2019 onwards. The reasons for this delay are of technical, administrative and political nature. For instance, despite four calls for applications, it has not been possible yet to recruit sufficient candidates of the required competency and integrity, in particular following background checks. Identifying an appropriate building and receiving approval and nominations of proposed candidates have been other challenges.