Corruption is endemic throughout Kyrgyzstan. Petty corruption is a regular feature of everyday life, with bribery being a common feature of business transactions and dealings with the authorities.
Nepotism affects all aspects of society particularly the business sector, which is likely to experience political interference whether through favouritism or cronyism. There have been efforts to reduce the level of corruption through high profile prosecutions and some legal reform. However, the effectiveness of such moves is limited by a corrupt judiciary and the lack of enforcement.
The public image is that grand corruption has lessened since the overthrowing of Bakiyev and Akayev. While there has been a decline, it is more likely that such large and obvious incidents of corruption have been replaced by more easily concealed forms of grand corruption.
Kyrgyzstan has high levels of petty corruption, not just in business transactions but also the public sector. The police are particularly high risk due to frequent unprofessional conduct, the influence of local government officials and their lack of funding and oversight; all of which makes a perfect environment for corruption. The police have been known to take bribes to drop prosecutions as well arbitrarily arresting civilians (foreign travellers are particularly at risk) to extort money. Corruption is also a problem when dealing with local officials particularly those in charge of supplying permits or licences. This is due to the multiple layers of bureaucracy and the lack of transparency which makes bribery and facilitation payments the norm. It is worth noting that petty corruption is a higher risk in the south of the country.
As previously stated grand corruption has become harder to identify in Kyrgyzstan compared to the past. In which Presidents Bakiyev and Akayev, particularly the later, used the state as their personal bank accounts. Thus, corruption was institutionalised around the president due to nepotism. President Atambayev’s has since led a fight against state corruption leading to the investigation of multiple political parties. Although critics have accused him of being less diligent about investigating his old party the SDPK. A large part of the anti-corruption drive seems to more rhetoric than action, as public cases often coincide more with a period the president or the administration needs a case rather than being a systematic attack on corruption.
Some of the most notable cases have been of high profile political figures. For example, the head of the head of President Atambaev’s office, Daniyar Narymbaev, was arrested on charges of fraud in July 2015. He was charged with taking a $100,000 bribe in exchange for leniency involving the ex-mayor of Bishkek's corruption case. Although such arrests and investigations are a positive step they are too few in number and too often are focused on smaller cases.
The corruption cases bought to trial only touch the surface of the problem rather than rooting out the core causes of corruption: the lack of oversight, a corrupt judiciary, an underfunded public sector and porous legislation.
One of the most obvious signs of the high level of corruption in Kyrgyzstan has been the revolving door of prime ministers. Since 2010 there has been 9 changes of prime minister, most have resigned due to accusations of corruption. The most notable have been Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov who received a gift of a racing horse. The latest was Prime Minister Temir Sariyev who resigned after being accused of over rigging construction contract bids.