2021 Activity

AMAN expresses its position on establishing a national committee for administrative reform

AMAN expresses its position on establishing a national committee for administrative reform

In a letter to President Mahmoud Abbas,

AMAN expresses its position on establishing a national committee for administrative reform

The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) follows with keen interest President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision on the establishment of a national committee for administrative reform. The need is felt for a serious and substantive reform of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) agencies and institutions. To address existing problems and imbalances, reference will be made to the norms of the Palestinian Basic Law, values of the Declaration of Independence, and best practice in governance.

The President’s decision on the establishment a national committee for administrative reform clearly reflects his understanding that the current administrative, financial, and security system needs to be reviewed and reformed. It requires in-depth consideration, scrutiny, and examination of the reality and nature of imbalances in the structure and legislation of the political system at large. In particular, some institutions operate without a statutory enactment or approved structure, including security agencies, governor offices, and General Petroleum Corporation. Others, such as the Constitutional Court, lack relevant bylaws or regulations. Mechanisms should be identified to reform, ensure slim structures, rationalise expenditures, and enhance the performance of PNA bodies. While this is triggered by international pressure and national calls for reform, the PNA is also crippled by a difficult financial situation as a result of the ongoing annual public budget deficit.

In its annual conference, The Palestinian Experience in Government Integrity and Fight against Political Corruption, held in late August 2021, AMAN took the initiative to call for comprehensive reform. AMAN highlighted that the current situation was perilous. The PNA is in dire need for serious structural reform, especially given the disruption of peaceful transition of power and elections, which serve as a democratic mechanism for access to power. Government practice is marred by weak transparency, participation, and integrity. Although it has a major influence on the political system, formal oversight of the executive branch of government has been debilitated. Objections have also been raised against oppressive practices, including measures characterised as infringements on public freedoms and fundamental rights. Combined with the ongoing Palestinian internal political divide, this situation has, consequently, prompted a continued decline in government integrity and a rapid slide into a totalitarian and authoritarian political system.

AMAN is of the view that the reform process must focus on issues mostly contained in the National Policy Agenda and National Development Plan, both approved by the government. These are as follows:

  1. Uphold democratic principles in the State of Palestine, by holding regular democratic elections at all levels, safeguarding citizens’ rights and fundamental freedoms and promoting respect for pluralism, equality, and freedom from discrimination.
  2. Improve access to justice by ensuring a fair, transparent, efficient, and independent judicial system and guaranteeing effective implementation of court decisions.
  3. Promote social justice and rule of law by strengthening social protection benefiting vulnerable groups and the poor, ensuring enactment and effective implementation of the social security law and regulations, and promoting corporate social responsibility and tripartite social dialogue. Additionally, policies will be in place to ensure quality health care for all and provide better health care services. This calls for reforming the public health insurance system and ensuring the fiscally sustainability of the health care system.
  4. Strengthen transparency by ensuring the right of access to information, strengthening the role of financial and administrative audit institutions, enhancing the efficiency of public institutions and response to citizens’ needs, promoting transparency in government, and combatting corruption in all its forms. Also, an e-government strategy will be developed and implemented, focusing on the delivery of on-line services to citizens. Service delivery will be strengthened through partnerships with the private sector and civil society.
  5. Maintain effective, efficient public financial management by ensuring fiscal sustainability, improving public financial management, rationalising expenditures, and reforming the public sector pension system. By abolition or merging, Palestine’s public institutions will be reformed and restructured to increase efficiency and improve service quality. Palestine’s utilities will be established, prioritising the electricity and water sectors.
  6. Ensure community and national security, public safety, and rule of law by improving the governance of Palestine’s security sector, strengthening institutional capacity, ensuring efficient use of resources, and strengthening capacity for disaster response and crisis management.
  7. Introduce changes to service in senior positions within the political system, ensuring integrity and transparency in access to these offices based on competency and equal opportunities. A committee for the quality of governance will be in place to control appointments and job tenure of staff, particularly ambassadors, governors, directors of security agencies, and heads of public institution and nongovernmental organisations.
  8. Reconsider the structure and discourse of public media institutions to reflect the aspirations, concerns, and political views of various segments of Palestinian society. Representing all citizens, public media will promote national unity.

Against this background, AMAN stresses that the success of any reform of the State of Palestine’s administrative system requires the following:

  1. A national committee will supervise the reform process. This will committee consist of public figures with proven integrity, impartiality, independence, and experience, or persons who previously served in public administration. These will enjoy the trust and respect of all Palestinian citizens. The committee will aim at promoting citizens’ confidence in the serious political will for reform. With its current composition, the announced committee is purely governmental. It is not carry on a national dimension as it does not involve persons from outside government institutions as well as from different sectors. This raises concerns that the reform process would be formal, rather than substantial, perpetuate weak government integrity, and protect influential officers.
  2. Clear objectives and tasks will be assigned to the committee, with a timeframe to accomplish its mandate. While clear accountability mechanisms for its operations are identified, principles of transparency will be applicable to the committee functions. This should avoid any conflict of interests and ensure Palestinian citizens’ right of access to information on reforms. The ultimate goal of the reform process will be to pursue the public good and interest. As provided by the relevant decision, tasks of the committee are loosely defined and overbroad. Limited to reviewing laws and structures, the committee does not scrutinise practices. Hence, AMAN believes that officials’ practices should be assessed and examined. They will also be held to account for any abuse of public office.
  3. The Council of Ministers should fulfil its responsibilities for the reform process. The tasks listed by the decision on the establishment of the committee clearly intersect with the Council of Ministers’ mandates as particularly prescribed by Article 69 of the Palestinian Basic Law.

Emphasising the true and urgent need for reforming the existing system, bringing the internal political divide to an end, and restoring democratic life in Palestine, AMAN stresses that the respective mandate holder be reconsidered. Goals and priorities should be defined along the lines of this letter so that this opportunity does end up strengthening the hegemony of centres of power and further plunging into the morass of political corruption.