Corruption is a serious obstacle for companies operating or planning to invest in Colombia. According to the WEF Global Competitiveness Index (2017-2018), corruption is the most problematic factor affecting competitiveness, followed by high tax rates and inefficient government bureaucracy. The NGO Transparency International reported that Colombian citizens’ perception of the level of corruption in the country remained constant in 2017, scoring 37 out of 100 (where higher scores indicate less corruption). Advances elsewhere in the world meant that its ranking fell from 90th to 96th out of the 180 countries surveyed. Customs, taxation, and public works contracts are commonly-cited sectors where corruption exists.
In December 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht had paid USD 800 million in bribes over six years regionally, including USD 11 million in Colombia, in order to win infrastructure contracts. As one of the biggest corporate corruption cases in history, the case has generated intense media coverage in Colombia, and several senior members of both the Santos and Uribe Administrations are under investigation. Through the course of the investigation, the known bribe total in Colombia was subsequently increased to USD 37 million. On March 14, 2017, President Santos acknowledged that Odebrecht illegally donated funds to his 2010 campaign, though he denied awareness of the act at the time. His opponent in the 2014 election, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, withdrew from the 2018 presidential election after being implicated in the scandal. Two high-priority infrastructure projects are on hold as a result of the corruption revelations, though other highway modernization projects critical to implementation of the peace continue. At least 23 public officials have been implicated in the scandal. The judicial influence–peddling scandal mentioned above, commonly known as the “Cartel of the Robe,” and numerous other reports of official corruption made public over the past year have also kept the subject in the public discourse.
In January 2017, President Santos issued decree 092 to prohibit direct public contracts with non-profit organizations. The Secretariat for Transparency estimates that more than USD 400 million in public resources are committed to contracts with foundations and NGOs; contracting with these entities has commonly been abused to steal public resources. Despite the prominence of this topic over the past year, legislation sought by the Santos Administration has stalled in Congress. These include proposed laws related to whistleblower protection, lobbying reform, and establishment of a beneficial ownership registry for corporations.
Colombia has adopted the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials, and is a member of the OECD Anti-Bribery Committee. It also passed a domestic anti-bribery law in 2016. It has signed and ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention. Additionally, it has adopted the OAS Convention against Corruption. The CTPA protects the integrity of procurement practices and criminalizes both offering and soliciting bribes to/from public officials. It requires both countries to make all laws, regulations, and procedures regarding any matter under the CTPA publicly available. Both countries must also establish procedures for reviews and appeals by any entities affected by actions, rulings, measures, or procedures under the CTPA.
Resources to Report Corruption
Useful resources and contact information for those concerned about combating corruption in Colombia include the following:
- The Transparency and Anti-Corruption Observatory is an interactive tool of the Colombian government aimed at promoting transparency and combating corruption available at ;
- The National Civil Commission for Fighting Corruption or Comision Nacional Ciudadana para la Lucha Contra la Corrupcion (CNCLCC) was established by Law 1474 of 2011, so civil society can discuss and propose policies and actions to fight corruption in the country. Transparencia por Colombia is the technical secretariat of the commission. ;
- The national chapter of Transparency International, Transparencia por Colombia: ;
- The Presidential Secretariat of Transparency advises and assists the president to formulate and design public policy about transparency and anti-corruption. This office also coordinates the implementation of anti-corruption policies. .