The Annual Corruption Report issued by the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) recommended amending the description of economic crimes of food and medicine to become corruption crimes incorporated within the articles of the Anti-Corruption Law and to be under the jurisdiction of Corruption Crimes Courts. The report discussed as well the importance of publishing the names of companies and distributors who contribute to the distribution of expired food and medicine
The recommendations were made during the ninth annual conference organized by AMAN Coalition on Wednesday 24/4/2012 in Ramallah. The conference aimed to introduce the results of 2012 Corruption Report entitled "Waste of Public Funds… a Luxury Palestinians Cannot Afford". The conference was attended by the Prime Minister, Mr. Salam Fayyad, and a number of ministers and representatives of governmental and non-governmental institutions.
Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of AMAN Coalition, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, said 'The Palestinian integrity index, developed by AMAN and implemented in 2011, has a major role in measuring the reality of integrity in Palestine. The results revealed that the reality of integrity was influenced by several factors, including: the incessant internal division, the constant disruption of the Legislative Council as a result of this division and not conducting the general elections. All of these led to holding the executive power unaccountable besides the absence of social accountability between the two parts of Palestine.
Additionally, there are reasons related to the occupation practices and its systematic violations of all human rights and their denial of accountability and avoidance of prosecution." She pointed out that the most positive indicators on the National Integrity System include: the progress achieved through conducting the local elections in the West Bank, the expansion in the provision of financial disclosures, improvement in the transparency of bids awarded by the Directorate of General Supplies at the Ministry of Finance, the Cabinet's approval of the Code of Conduct of public jobs, the nomination of a national committee to follow up the extent of commitment by the Code and the Cabinet's decision to abandon the requirement of security clearance for the occupancy of public jobs.
Dr. Ashrawi indicated that 2012 witnessed an unprecedented cooperation between "AMAN" and the public sector to implement the agreement and to enhance integrity and transparency in the public sector. The largest awareness campaign of corruption, its system and combating it was launched in cooperation with the Ministries of Interior, Education and Awqaf and the General Personnel Council. She pointed out that DALILI website was launched, and a manual to prevent corruption in humanitarian operations was published.
Dr. Ashrawi noted that "AMAN" is preparing for the establishment of a control observatory of the general budget to analyze it. The observatory will issue its assessment reports during the upcoming months.
In her speech on behalf of the international partners, Ms. Birgitta Tazelaar- Head of Mission-Netherlands Representative Office to Palestine State spoke about the progress level achieved in combating corruption in Palestine, mainly in recent years. She expressed her hope to achieve further progress and development within the framework of combating corruption.
Ms. Tazelaar pointed out that the phenomenon of wasting public funds is not only confined to the developing countries, but it also notably found in other countries. She stated that efforts have been exerted in Palestine to achieve progress in establishing foundations and governmental recognition to reduce wasting of public funds.
The report pointed out "the importance of reconsidering the general structure of PA institutions with respect to reducing the number of public non-ministerial institutions." It stressed the need to change the Palestinian financial policies with the aim to stop the depletion of public treasury funds. Also, to issue a bylaw defining the cases of conflict of interests, the mechanisms of disclosure when available in the public sector and when transferring employees from public to private sector."
The report stressed the need to create a form of understanding on the delivery mechanism of the West Bank government clearing bills to Gaza traders. Also, AMAN’s report addressed the procedures and actions taken by PA during 2012. They are represented in the following: conducting local elections in the West Bank, abandonment of security clearance a certificate for occupancy of public jobs, the Cabinet's adoption of behavior in public job and a wide provision of financial disclosures during 2012. It also highlighted the ongoing disruption of the presidential and legislative elections and its negative impact on creating a facilitating environment of corruption.
The report indicated that the most significant forms of corruption in the Palestinian community are centralized around "embezzlement of public funds, money laundering, abuse of trust, abuse of public positions for private purposes and nepotism. Indeed, the latter was one of the most noticeable cases investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission. Also, the constant lack of an official system that identifies cases of conflict of interests and mechanisms to reduce its occurrence in the management of public affairs was an actual motive of undue enrichment crime which is deemed to be the most common crime of corruption."
The report indicated that "the phenomenon of corrupt drugs and food still in existence due to the lack of deterrent penalties and dealing with these crimes as misdemeanors". It requires that these crimes to be deemed as crimes of corruption and the implementation of Consumer Protection Law of 2005 which entails deterrent penalties. Also, it requires establishing the General Directorate of Food and Drugs Safety.
Moreover, a set of points in the report were highlighted, including:
An obvious example of waste of public fund is the constant failure to address the phenomenon of debts related to water and electricity consumption by municipalities and electricity distribution companies. There are several reasons that led to such a situation, including: lack of government collection procedures, and that certain municipalities collect water fees without paying them back to the Water Authority.
Defects and problems began to appear in the corners of the building which costs $1,480,00 within less than 4 years since its delivery. These include: stones breakdown and noting dark spots on the wall stones.
The report stated that there was a waste of public fund due to the process of stones restoration of the late President Arafat's tomb. The amount was paid by the public treasury. This indicates poor official control over non-ministerial public institutions and lack of accountability.
The report noted that there is no Board of Directors since nine years. Also, till 2012, the number of the Airlines staff was 220 employees. There are 150 contracted employees who are not active service staff. They are in Gaza Strip since all the military staff assigned to join it were sent back to join the National Security Forces.
Sharia judiciary still has no actual reporting system. It is required to report to regular judiciary since it is an integral part of it, besides reporting to the President's Office is a kind of formality.
During 2012, the Ministry of Finance implemented a number of measures to improve tax collections and prevent tax evasion. The most prominent action taken was to increase the number of the staff of the Audit Department.
Some Palestinian traders and taxpayers still evade or avoid settling all their due taxes to the PA Treasury. This is mainly happens in Gaza by not paying clearing invoices based on Hamas' orders.
Dr. Ghassan al Khatib, member of the General Assembly of AMAN Coalition, addressed, in his speech, the issue of waste of public fund with respect to revenues and expenditures. An appeal was addressed to Mr. President Mahmoud Abbas to deal with the judiciary dilemmas, including the Public Prosecution. Its situation requires a valiant initiative by Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister that overlooks the disturbances caused or might be caused by a number of individuals who benefit from the current situation.
In the second session held under the title Cases under the spotlight , a number of issues of concern to the Palestinian citizen were addressed. The session was chaired by AMAN’s Executive Director Ghada Zughayar who discussed food and drug corruption with respect to problems and obstacles to be solved. Mr. Bilal Barghouthi, AMAN’s Legal Adviser, and Mrs. Najat Al Braiki, Chief Prosecutor of Economic crimes, delivered a speech in this session.
As well as Mr. Mahmoud Jamous, Secretary General of the Supreme Judicial Council, Mr. Salah Haniyyeh, Director of the Federation of Consumer Protection Associations. And From Gaza Strip, Mr. Fathi Sabbah, Chairman Board of Directors of the Palestinian Institute for Communication and Development, spoke on behalf of the local partners about the experience of partner institutions in controlling the public performance. He urged to enhance the role of civil society organizations in controlling the public performance and hold officials at various levels liable and accountable would largely contribute to the reduction of corruption.