Gaza – The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) held a discussion session on the environment of integrity in the functions of Zakat management institutions in the Gaza Strip. The session came up with a set of recommendations on the legal and institutional framework for Zakat management. Of these, the Palestinian Law on the Regulation of Zakat No. 9 of 2008 needs to be amended, taking account of the comments made by governmental and nongovernmental organisations. Recommendations also stressed the need for concerting efforts between Zakat institutions, devising a national plan to achieve the goals of Zakat, unifying official Zakat collection, developing efficient and effective administrative, technical and financial performance of Zakat institutions, and building a common database of Zakat agencies.
AMAN’s report examines performance of Zakat management institutions, including commitment to the standards of integrity, transparency, and accountability. Along this vein, the discussion session reviewed how impartial and independent Zakat management institutions were in dealing with the Palestinian Zakat Institution (PZI) as a financially and administratively independent body. These have their own budget allocations from the PZI revenues and projects. The PZI has private bank accounts beyond the reach of government authorities in the Gaza Strip. The PZI activities are controlled by the Gaza-based State Audit and Administrative Control Bureau and Palestinian Legislative Council.
In relation to integrity, in view of lacking relevant provisions under the Law on the Regulation of Zakat, AMAN’s report recommends that conflict of interest be prevented in Zakat management operations. Expedited action will be taken to develop a code of conduct to control and bind Zakat management institutions to professional ethics, first and foremost financial disclosure statements. Importantly, Zakat management institutions need to pursue field research in order to identify beneficiary selection mechanisms in line with other social conditions, including education and health.
In terms of transparency, recommendations stress the need for making criteria for Zakat payment publicly available, taking account of community priorities. In addition to sharing documents, electronic means should be used. Concerned persons will have access to Zakat management files, particularly financial data on revenues and expenditures. Zakat management institutions will develop more transparent and effective websites, ensuring public access to information, criteria and conditions for application. A database will be built to link relief aid to actual needs, such as medical treatment, education, etc.
Regarding transparency, AMAN’s report recommends that links and contact details be provided to receive complaints on the webpages of Zakat management institutions. The legal framework will provide for setting mechanisms for civil society monitoring and control.
Highlighting the significance of AMAN’s report, discussants shared the view of the need for networking and coordination between all relevant bodies. The difficulties faced by these actors should be taken into account, particularly in the context of consolidating the Zakat beneficiary database and low number of field research staff.