Ramallah & Gaza- AMAN Coalition for Accountability and Integrity has held the annual transparency ceremony in observance of the International Anti-corruption Day to honor the 2015 Integrity Awards winners today in Ramallah and Gaza. The ceremony has been remarkably attended by members of the public, ministers, official figures, and representatives of official, civil and International organizations including the Tunisian watchdog NGO “I Watch”, as well as a constellation of journalists.
In his keynote, Abdelqader al-Husseini, the Chairperson of AMAN Board of Directors, dilated on AMAN’s efforts to cherish the value of public wealth preservation through heterogeneous tools and methods and hence promote the transparency and accountability of Palestinian institution management; particularly, the government institutions working in the public financial sphere. Furthermore, al-Husseini seized the opportunity to invite the Government and the Ministry of Finance to achieve better openness with the civil society to be involved in the preparatory consultations of public budgets, national plans as well as the accountability measures pertaining to them. He also urged the Government to publish all the public wealth management documents, including the preparation of the citizen's budget, the final account, which has not been published since 2010, pre-budget statement, budget bill summary and the semi-annual report.
Moreover, al-Husseini insisted that the valor of corruption fighters and whistle-blowers should be encouraged by measures translating the anti-corruption political will. Such actions will boost the Palestinian citizen’s confidence in the official competent authorities responsible for holding the corrupt accountable and close any lacunas that might be exploited by the corrupt to escape the punishment. Besides, they will improve the effectiveness and swiftness of the litigation procedures which still provide a loophole for the corrupt to deaden the corruption cases filed against them.
Mr. Rafiq al Natsheh praised the efforts of AMAN and underlined the role of the civil-society organizations as a compatriot of paramount of importance in the war raged against corruption. He also confirmed that he got wind that the Right to Access Information Act will see the light in the offing. On the other hand, he highlighted the anti-corruption political the State of Palestine has; nonetheless, Palestine still suffers from corruption as other countries do.
Finally, he asserted that accountability is the true pith of corruption investigations, and for sure not defamation.
Mr. Abdallah Khardra has let the cry of the Palestinian youth out so as the officials can shoulder their responsibility for protecting their future from the occupation, political schism and corruption as well. In the same context, he indicated that it is the role of decision makers (i.e. politicians and economists) to build a fair future for the Palestinian youth through adopting the proper policies. Such steps will create job opportunities for the young whose faith in a better future will be deepened. He, however, insisted that the employees should be chosen neither on a political basis nor on familial one.
On this Occasion, Mr. A’zmi el-Shua’ibi, AMAN BoD Anti-Corruption consultant, has revealed the key components of the rationalization and austerity plan prepared by AMAN. The plan will be consulted with the Civil Society Team for Budget Transparency and the civil society so as to be furnished to the Government. Moreover, he revealed that the critical financial situation exacerbated by the increase of the public expenditure has represented the main impetus for this initiative. He also pointed out that the cause of the current burdensome financial situation is the occupation and the political division. Furthermore, he emphatically expressed the need for: (i) adopting austerity measures for the payroll (ii) solving the phantom employee phenomenon (iii) solving the problem of medical referrals through an integrated system;(iv) regulating the petroleum sector; (v) restructuring the security forces; (vi) restructuring the banks of the Palestinian embassies and missions; (vii) integrating the social assistance with a comprehensive social assurance system; (viii) rationalizing the financial liabilities and concessions bestowed to senior officials and contract employees; (xi) halting the procurement of government premises and vehicles.
As a manifestation of AMAN partnership with other Palestinian sectors with a view to consolidating all the efforts for eradicating corruption, A platform has been launched to present the experiences and efforts of the key partners against corruption. The platform led by Mr. Adam Johana, a member of AMAN board of directors, has comprised of the Legislative Council, Financial and Administrative Bureau, and the Civil-Society Team for Public Budget Transparency.
Mr. Yunis began his words by shedding the light on the considerable efforts devoted by AMAN to create an anti-corruption societal culture. He, furthermore, added that AMAN is actively immersed in the war raged against corruption through the close coordination with the public institutions, the civil-society organizations and the members of the public as per their sector and specialty.
Further, Huda Na’eim, a Legislative Council member, pinpointed the role of the Legislative Council in the promotion and enhancement of integrity, transparency and accountability practices. She also indicated that the Legislative Council has been always resorting to AMAN’s publications and reports which the Council deems a reliable copious reference in the anti-corruption practices.
Mr. Ismail Mahfouz, Head of the Office of Financial and Administrative Control Bureau in Gaza Strip, focused on the significance of releasing the rein of the public control in the supervisory institutions. He also mentioned that the Financial and Administrative Control Bureau devotes considerable efforts to promote the prevention of corruption, safeguard the ministerial and non-ministerial institutions against it, and hence to minimize it and build the national system of integrity.
Throughout the presentation of the experience of the Civil Team for the Public Budget Transparency, Dr. Wael Daya, A Member of the Civil Team, illustrated the team vision and objectives. He also mentioned the concerted attempts of the Team to consolidate the efforts so as to prepare the rationalization and austerity plan in cooperation with AMAN.
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, the head of the jury, insisted that the value of these awards exceeds their material dimension to be more of a symbolic acknowledgement of the winners’ bravery. These awards are, but means to encourage and support the winners to pursue their anti-corruption interventions and to actualize their will and belief that anti-corruption is a national responsibility, which every citizen shoulder and trumpet out that "each voice against corruption does count."
Public Sector Integrity Award (Mohammed Abu Bakr)
The winners of integrity awards were named after screening short films about them. The award for the public sector went to Mr. Mohammad abu-Bakr. The case was of a citizen who detected the smuggling of low quality fraudulently mixed diesel to be sold as mineral oils. Such corrupt actions deprived the PA treasury of millions of shekels and directly impacted the citizens’ vehicles due the bad fuel…
It is worth mentioning that AMAN has been calling upon the government to regulate the Palestinian petroleum sector.
Best Anti-Corruption Specialized Research Award (Mohammad al-Agha and Nidal al-Masri)
The Integrity Award for Best Research Specialized in the Field of Anti-Corruption was granted for two researchers, namely, Mohammad al-Agha and Nidal al-Masri from Gaza. Their researche has been marked by it novality, as it has trodden a new area. It proposes the development of soft leadership practices to promote an anti-corruption administrative culture in the Palestinian universities.
Media Sector Integrity Award (Mohammed abu Shahmeh and Ibrahim Shaqoura)
As for the Integrity Award for Media Sector, it was given to Mohammed Abu Shahmeh and Ibrahim Shaqoura (i.e. two Palestinian Journalists). The investigation highlighted the problem of exploiting the non-potable water in some bakeries in Gaza Strip. In this investigation, amounts of nitrate were found in tap water, which was originally used for making the bread produce at these bakeries. The Ministry of National Economy was notified of the results of this investigation, thus it conducted inspections of the suspected bakeries. The Ministry has commanded the bakeries to use desalinated retreated water, which is suitable for human consumption, in order to preserve people precious lives, which we could have lost, if this investigation had not been carried out.
AMAN coalition praised the efforts of the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and the municipalities of Ramallah, al-Bireh, al-Maghazi and Jabaliya for actualizing the integrity and transparency principles and values, as they have been reflected in their work during 2015 through the promotion of the integrity and transparency of the work environment and the adoption of anti-corruption measures.
Last but not least, an appreciation certificate has been given to the representative of Al-Makassed Islamic Charitable Society Hospital as an honor for Jerusalem, the steadfast efforts to face the Israeli violations and shackles imposed on the Hospital, and for the several measures taken by the Hospital to enhance the institutional government and corruption resistance.
AMAN also thanked the researcher Khalil Madi for his research on "The role of moral system requirements and the value of the professional life in the minimization of the administrative corruption," which will be published by AMAN. AMAN also acknowledged the remarkable reports by both Amjad Yaghi for his report on "Nepotism and Bribery in the Medical Referrals in Gaza," and Muhannad al-A’dam for his report "Who is responsible for the risk of Diagnostic Imaging centers being turned to landfills for smuggled damaged devices?”