Under-developed public accountability systems are hindering efforts to combat corruption in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Palestine, according to a new report by Transparency International (TI) anti-corruption organisation. The report points to major gaps in legal anti-corruption provisions and a worrying lack of resolve to introduce effective practices to curb the problem, which pose a risk for sustainable development, social cohesion and economic growth.
“In all countries studied the governance systems can be described as ineffectual,” said Christiaan Poortman, Director of Global Programmes at TI. “A key obstacle is unchecked executive power which overrides attempts to introduce the kinds of checks and balances that put integrity and accountability at the heart of good governance.”
The Good Governance Challenge: Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Palestine is based on four comprehensive studies which assess each country’s governance systems, including the executive, legislature, political parties, the judiciary, anti-corruption agencies, non-governmental organisations and the media. The report identifies areas of weakness and presents recommendations to strengthen institutions and the implementation of existing legislation.
Each country’s context varies but they all share a common problem: corruption poses a challenge for accountability and development. The report found that overall, whether in government, the private sector or amongst citizens, there is a limited grasp of anti-corruption concepts such as transparency and accountability. Nepotism, bribery and patronage are so common that they are widely accepted facts of life. Notably, a citizen denouncing corruption in any of these countries is left unprotected since there are no whistleblower protection mechanisms, and aside from Lebanon, provisions regarding public access to information are extremely weak.
The report notes that Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon do not have anti-corruption agencies and though Morocco does, it has no power to investigate or sanction. “Institutionalising change poses a significant challenge. We want to work with governments, civil society and the private sector to uproot corruption as a means to ensure stability and economic development,” said Poortman.
On a positive note, the report points to an increase in the adoption of national anti-corruption plans and legal frameworks including laws in Palestine that strengthen the independence of the judiciary, drafting of access to information legislation in Lebanon, a Central Instance for Prevention of Corruption plan in Morocco and the establishment of a Transparency and Integrity Committee in Egypt.
Key recommendations from the report include:
- States should safeguard the independence of oversight bodies, such as audit offices and ombudsmen, and increase citizen participation in governance processes.
- The executive branch should allow for strengthening the role of parliament, the judiciary and public oversight bodies as effective checks on its operations.
- States should promote the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) as a suitable framework to advance anti-corruption laws
- States should respect and protect the freedom of citizens and non-governmental organisations to engage in public affairs, including the fight against corruption.
- States should introduce and implement comprehensive whistleblower protection and freedom of information legislation, as well as legislation to prohibit conflict of interest in public office holders.
- Civil society organisations should commit to the highest standards of accountability and transparency in their operations.
- Support should be given to strengthen regional dialogue and capacity-building efforts on anti-corruption issues through initiatives such as the United Nations Development Programme - Programme on Governance in the Arab Region.
The report is a summary of four National Integrity System (NIS) studies previously published in the countries. TI defines the NIS as the key pillars in a society that contribute to integrity, transparency and accountability. The reports were carried out by TI chapters and regional experts. TI introduced NIS assessments in 2001 and has carried out more than 70 worldwide.
Transparency International is the civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption
Note to editors:
The report is part of the Transparency International Promoting Transparency and Enhancing Integrity in the Arab region. The goal of the project is to identify practices that promote transparency and enhance integrity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The four reports can be downloaded in Arabic and English.
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