The Coalition for Integrity and Accountability (AMAN) held its annual Transparency Festival entitled “Capture of the Arab State: a Manifestation of Corruption”, with the participation of a Kuwaiti delegation and a number of civil society activists from Arab countries. Present at the festival were Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Mr. Rafiq Natsheh, President of Anti-corruption Commission; also present was the delegation for the Kuwaiti Transparency Association headed by Mr. Salah El-Ghazali, Dr. Kamal Sharafi, Vice Chairman of the Coalition and Dr. Azmi Shuaibi AMAN’s Commissioner for Combating Corruption, in addition to representatives of Palestinian political parties, factions. Guests also included civil society, and media representatives. The Festival was held simultaneously in Ramallah and Gaza facilitated through video conferencing.
The Ministry of Finance to release its transactions to the public on daily basis:
In an international precedent, Dr.Salam Fayyad announced that the Ministry of Finance will provide AMAN with its day-to-day transactions along with all supporting documents on daily basis in order to allow those interested to closely inspect these documents and monitor the daily processes at the governmental level. Dr. Fayyad also said, “This is a highly progressive level of commitment; I don’t know if any other country in the world has taken upon itself to do the same.”
He added, “In addition to the preceding commitment to regularly publish reports on the 15th of each month, with details of the Authority’s financial transaction for the previous month, this step is a genuine obligation, especially in terms of prevention, and reflects a high degree of commitment to transparency. Many governments do provide this kind of information, but only when requested; we, on the other hand, will be providing it routinely, and on daily bases; that, I believe, is a precedent.”
Dr. Natsheh then spoke saying that these three declared initiatives (i.e. revealing daily government transactions, signing the political parties code of conduct, and publishing the model of financial disclosure), “…are but indicators of the political resolve to combat corruption without hesitation or reservation.”
On that same note, Dr. Azmi Shuaibi, Commissioner at AMAN and Chairman of the Arab Civil Network for Integrity, Transparency and Combating Corruption, stated that, “The political will, the absence of which was the main obstacle to combating corruption, is now present and complete.”
At the start of the conference, Dr. Kamal Sharafi, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at AMAN, stated that this day comes under complex conditions in Palestine; the Israeli occupation continues its discriminatory measures in addition to the internal division which overshadows Palestinian life. The evident effects of the internal division not withstanding, the current conditions create fertile grounds for the depletion of local capacities hence contributing to the increase of poverty and unemployment hindering economic and political reform, which in turn intensifies corruption.
Dr. Sharafi emphasized the fact that the AMAN was established specifically to ensure accountability and enhance transparency in Palestinian institutions. AMAN, through its activities also worked to enlighten citizens of their right to access to information enabling them to better fight corruption.
Dr. Rafiq Natsheh, Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission, also spoke, stating that the commission has the complete support of President Mahmoud Abbas as well as Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in its mission to combat corruption and hold those who commit corruption crimes accountable. He further stated that fighting corruption contributes greatly to building a more solid and independent state.
Salah El-Ghazali: Palestinian fight against corruption is a role model
Dr. Salah El-Ghazali, President of the Board of the Kuwaiti Transparency Association and a participant at the Festival, expressed his appreciation of “the new Palestinian measures in combating corruption at the national level.” He added, “We envy you the groups you have formed to fight corruption, and envy you for having an organization such as AMAN, which conducts activities that could be considered the best in the Arab world. All of us in Arab nations benefit from its experiences, and we in Kuwait, visit its website daily to learn from those experiences.”
Dr. Ghazali also expressed his pleasure at “being witness to crucial initiatives in combating corruption, such as the ratification of the Palestinian political parties code of conduct, the financial disclosure model, and release of the Ministry of Finance’s daily transactions to the public. We hope we in Kuwait can benefit from these initiatives.”
D. Ghazali also mentioned the United Nations’ Convention against Corruption, adopted in October 2003, and signed by most Arab countries.
He added, “Had our countries adhered to the provisions of this agreement, we would not have needed an “Arab spring” in 2011. Arab revolutions came about as a result of corruption, authoritarianism, exclusivity, and daily encroachment on basic human rights; all of which are facets of political, financial, and administrative corruption. He resumed, “There were initiatives that should have been an alarm bell for the rulers of the region; had they heeded those warnings, there would not have been martyrs, and we would not have lost revenue and valuable resources. One consequence of these revolts is the overthrow of some Arab regimes, with others well on their way of collapsing. Many countries have taken significant measures towards reform and democratization, which are positive steps, but are not comprehensive yet.”
Arab tribute to the Palestinian experience
The Festival was held this year to mark the “Arab Spring” and pay tribute to activists combating corruption in many Arab countries, including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Tunisia, Morocco, and Libya. Activists of these countries spoke of corruption in their own countries. They commended the Palestinian experience and AMAN’s efforts and impact at both the Palestinian national level and the entire Arab world.
During the Festival, Executive Director of Transparency International spoke of how he expects the Arab revolutions to “have a significant impact on the world”. “Corruption will not disappear overnight and much more work is needed to overcome it” He added. He too commended AMAN’s efforts, the national chapter of Transparency International, and said that, it’s Advocacy and Legal Advice center is leader in this region and a model for other like centers. He ended his speech by complementing AMAN considering it ”a pivotal part of the global structure for combating corruption”.
Ratifying a Code of Conduct for Palestinian Political Parties
Representatives of Palestinian political parties, movements, and factions signed the document entitled “principles of behavior for factions, movements, and political parties” during the Festival.
The signatories to this document were: the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fateh), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the People’s Party, the Palestinian National Initiative (Fida), the Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF), the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF), the Arab Palestinian Front (APF), and the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC).
Integrity Awards (Bu-Azizi Award)
The conference concluded with the announcement of winners of the Integrity and Anti-Corruption Award, which this year was named in honor of Mohammad Albu-Azizi, the young Tunisian who set himself on fire, sparking the Tunisian revolution which toppled Zein El-Abedine Bin Ali’s regime.
The winner of this award was “Watan, and Watan News” television network for its series of reportage on pesticides. In the category of media journalists, however, the award was won jointly by Mohammad Khaled Mousa from Bethlehem for his investigative report on fraudulent medical reports and “disease free” certificates given without medical check ups. Mohammad Hajjeh of Palestine Television was granted the Award for his report on the marketing of a spoiled fish shipment.
Public Sector Award
For the public sector and local bodies’ award, the winner was Major Wael Anati, the director of the Central Investigations division of Customs Control.
Best Research Award
The award for best academic research on corruption went to an MA student Abdel-Majed El-Aloul from Gaza for his research onGaza’s large charitable organization readiness to combat corruption. Saja El-Tirawi, also a student, received a certificate of appreciation for her study on the reality of access to information in Palestine. It should be noted that the award to shareholding companies was withheld this year due to the low number of nominations, which were limited to two companies: the Palestinian Communications Company and Golden Wheat Mill, who were awarded certificates of appreciation for their efforts in implementing government codes.
Applications for nominations were evaluated by a specialized independent technical committee for each category, and AMAN presented the awards to the winners based on the recommendations of these committees.
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