Poor confidence in agencies of the political system impact public satisfaction with state institutions’ efforts to combat corruption
AMAN releases Results of the 2022 Annual Public Opinion Poll on the Reality of and Fight against Corruption in Palestine
Ramallah / Gaza – On 10-16 September 2022, the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) carried out a public opinion poll in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. The opinion poll monitors public perceptions and awareness of the reality of and fight against corruption.
Addressing pervasive corruption is second in priority for Palestinian citizens
Economic conditions, widespread corruption, practices of the Israeli occupying authorities, poor rule of law, and ongoing internal Palestinian political divide continue to be the five key problems, which citizens believe should be prioritised and resolved. Widespread corruption (25 percent) ranked second to economic crises (28 percent).
Citizens are of the view that poor compliance with the rule of law, inactive Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and oversight bodies, failure to hold corrupt senior officials to account, inefficient civil society groups, and Israeli occupation all contribute to the public perception of the existence of corruption in Palestine.
73 percent of citizens are of the opinion that senior government officials are the most corrupt
According to the Opinion Poll results, 56 percent of those surveyed believed that corruption was extensive in Palestinian society. By contrast, 73 percent of the respondents thought that senior government officials comprised the most corrupt group. Results of the 2022 Opinion Poll showed an improvement in public perceptions of the level of corruption. Compared to 59 percent in 2021, 49 percent of those surveyed believed that corruption would be on an upward trajectory.
According to the 2021 Report of the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), a total of 119 complaints and reports involving senior government officials were filed to the Commission. These represented 13 percent of all 886 complaints received by the PACC.
Government institutions are the most susceptible to corruption
The majority of those surveyed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip believed that government bodies, namely, line ministries, security agencies and local government units (LGUs), were the most vulnerable to corruption in 2022. Twenty four (24) percent of the respondents said that the executive branch of government (Council of Ministers, line ministries, and non-ministerial government bodies) were the most prone to corruption. These were followed by LGUs, including municipalities and village councils, (17 percent), security agencies (16 percent), Judicial Authority, including courts and Public Prosecution (15 percent), and President’s Office (11 percent).
With respect to line ministries and government bodies most vulnerable to corruption, in the opinion of the respondents, the Ministry of Finance occupied the number one position (14 percent), followed by the Ministry of Health (13 percent), Ministry of Social Development (12 percent), and security agencies (10 percent). Just 8 percent of those surveyed were of the view that other ministries and government bodies were most susceptible to corruption.
Public perceptions of corruption within the judiciary are still high
In comparison to 2021, results of the 2022 Opinion Poll showed a declining number of the respondents, who believed that corruption existed in the judicial system. Still, the proportion remains high, reaching up to 68 percent of all respondents.
This widely-held public perception is attributed to multiple reasons, including lengthy court proceedings and poor judicial independence, particularly as a result of the laws by decrees passed over the last two years.
24 percent believe that patronage and favouritism are the most pervasive forms of corruption
Of those surveyed, 24 percent were of the opinion that patronage and favouritism were the most prevalent crimes, followed by embezzlement of public funds (23 percent), misappropriation (13 percent), abuse of power (12 percent), bribe requests for public services (10 percent), and money laundering (8 percent).
Citizens also believe that some services are not provided in a completely impartial manner, especially in relation to appointments and promotions to senior positions, healthcare services, distribution of humanitarian aid, and granting of permits. Forty four (44) percent of the surveyed citizens, who accessed public institutions for services in 2022, said they had to use patronage so that they could receive needed services. The respondents who did so explained that this was due to the desire to shorten time and avoid bureaucratic procedures. They also cited the fear that an unqualified person receives the service needed as a consequence of corruption and a common Palestinian culture that sees nothing wrong with resorting to patronage.
High rate of bribery in 2022
Compared to average results of the past three years (18 percent), 24 percent of those surveyed said they or their relatives paid or gave gifts to a civil servant for a public service. This reflects a significant increase in contrast with previous years.
In the opinion of some respondents, issuance of licences and official authorisations were the most vulnerable to the prevalence of bribery, particularly in the Gaza Strip. From the perspective of 41 percent of those surveyed, issuance of licences and official authorisations were the most prone to bribery. This is due to the low income of some junior civil servants, pressure of the need for services, taking advantage of limited opportunities to access services, and failure to hold senior government officials to account. These have encouraged some civil servants to solicit bribe.
Citizens still believe that the media role in detecting corruption is weak
According to the Opinion Poll results, 85 percent of those surveyed thought that the Palestinian media played an ineffective or relatively effective role in detecting cases of corruption. By contrast, 59 percent of the respondents were of the view that digital media (electronic media agencies, online radio and TV outlets, and social media platforms) played the most effective role in highlighting and detecting cases of corruption in 2022. This compared to visual media (17 percent), audio media (15 percent), and printed media (6 percent).
Although the Regulation on the Protection of Whistleblowers was approved, citizens’ motivation for reporting corruption is still mediocre
In spite of the fact the Regulation on the Protection of Whistleblowers was approved, a majority of the respondents (55 percent) still believed that citizens were reluctant to report crimes of corruption. This is due to inadequate protection of whistleblowers and witnesses, limited awareness of the meaning and forms of corruption, not knowing the body authorised to receive corruption-related complaints, and fear of reprisal.
A wide majority of citizens consider that the anti-corruption effort is inadequate
Results of the Opinion Poll showed that a wide majority of the respondents (85 percent) were of the view that efforts made to fight corruption were not adequate. This is triggered by poor transparency in state institution management and weak political will to hold corrupt individuals to account. Penalties imposed on perpetrators of corruption crimes are not deterrent. Role models of senior officials, who comply with the values of integrity and maintain public resources and interest, are also lacking.
Citizens are not convinced of the effectiveness and adequacy of efforts made by anti-corruption agencies
The Opinion Poll results demonstrated that half of those surveyed in the West Bank were unconvinced of the effectiveness and adequacy of the efforts made by anti-corruption agencies. While believing that interference by powerful political parties was at work, 57 percent of the respondents continued to be sceptical about the independence of these bodies. From the standpoint of those surveyed, the Prime Minister’s Office, President’s Office, Governors, and LGU chairs, respectively, interfered the most in the operations of anti-corruption agencies.
On the other hand, 37 of the respondents in the Gaza Strip continued to be unconvinced of the adequacy of the efforts made by anti-corruption bodies. Still, 47 percent of the those surveyed cast doubt on the independence of these agencies and believed they were under the influence of the ruling authority in the Gaza Strip, including security agencies, Attorney General, PLC members, and party leaders.
Agencies that influence and interfere the most in bodies responsible for following up on corruption cases from the viewpoint of citizens
According to results of the Opinion Poll, bodies in charge of following up on cases of corruption (PACC, State Audit and Administrative Control Bureau in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes Prosecution Office) are constrained by interference and influence of different parties and agencies. These include the President’s Office, security agencies, and faction leaders in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. As a result, citizens in the West Bank and Gaza have lost confidence in the bodies responsible for keeping an eye on corruption cases.
In spite of the improvement seen in service delivery as well as in working mechanisms and processes throughout Palestinian state institutions over the past years, results of recent opinion polls on public perceptions and attitudes towards corruption are still highly negative. This may be attributed to a lack of openness by ruling authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to anti-corruption actions. In the absence of a mechanism to verify the accuracy of information, social media networks are rife with news and comments that ignite the sensitivities of Palestinians. This is all the more visible in the case of the West Bank-based government due to poor confidence and growing impatience with the performance of the political class. Additionally, there is a general sense among citizens that institutions of the political system are weak, further undermining public confidence in the performance of state institutions.