2013 Activities

What Does the Palestinian Authority Want From the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs?

What Does the Palestinian Authority Want From the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs?

What Does the Palestinian Authority Want From the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs?
Confusion, Disarray,and Meagre Resources Allocated to itTurn Ministry Into Small Department Swallowed by the Governorate

December 2013, Ramallah – The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity -- AMAN --held a workshop to discuss a special report entitled “The Official National Institutions in Jerusalem: The Reality of Integrity and Transparency in the Work of the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and the Governorate of Jerusalem”. The report’s draft specifies the challenges regarding the terms of reference of these institutions, their administrative reality and the official policies on them as well as the funding challenges.
The meeting was attended by a number of representatives of organizations working in Jerusalem, primarily the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, the Governorate of Jerusalem, civil society organizations, members of the Palestinian Legislative Counciland the StateAuditand Administrative Control Bureau - SAACBas well as representatives from the Secretariat General of the Council of Ministers, the President’s Office, and representatives of the Jerusalem unites in the ministries, such as the Women’s Affairs Ministry, the Ministry of Planning, and the PLO’s Jerusalem Affairs Unit. The workshop was also attended by academic figures and journalists. However, the absence of Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Mr Adnan al-Husayni was notable particularly in light of the importance of hisattendance.
AMAN's Commissioner for Combating Corruption DrAzmi Al Shuaibistarted the workshop by welcoming the participants, stressing the need to shed light on the work of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Jerusalem as it is responsible for and accountable to the Palestinian people wherever they are. He also pointed out the absence of a unified reference term that is responsible for all the PA's actions in Jerusalem, adding that this creates a condition of confusion and disarray in the public institutions in Jerusalem. This also leads to an absence of transparency and accountability of officials responsible for the duties they carry out in the city.
The author of the report, researcher Na’ilah al-Razim, presented its main points, and the most important conclusions and challenges it specifies, which are: the failure to establish a unified national reference term for the city of Jerusalem, the PA's lack of a clear vision and strategy on Jerusalem and its citizens, resorting to ad hoc and arbitrary decision-making, the financial and administrative overlapping between the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and the Governorate of Jerusalem in which each party regards the other responsible for its operative expenditures, the presence of hundreds of employees in the ministry’s cadre whereas in reality there are 14 ones only.
The participants discussed the content of the report, praising it and commending its realistic recommendations. They highlighted the importance of setting up a special financial system for the ministry due to the uniqueness and nature of the issues that require quick financial decisions. They also called for the formation of a committee to investigate the names of the bogus employees appearing on the ministry's cadre. They recommended to establish a unified national reference term in order to confront the challenges facing Jerusalem and to separate between the ministry and the governorate so that they would have financial and administrative independence.






AMAN report reveals that some parties have exploited the privileges of custom exemptions given to vehicles used by handicaps and charities.

After receiving information from citizens pointing out the misuse of these privileges by some parties, AMAN prepared a report on limiting the issuing of custom exemptions for disabled people and charities. The conclusions of this report underscored the presence of a loophole allowing some parties to exploit these privileges, which is a violation of the rights of disabled people. The report was prepared as part of the Civil Society Organizations and the Citizens’ Project: The Force Affecting the Increase of the State Institutions’ Responsiveness to Accountability that is being implemented by AMAN through funding from the EU.

To discuss the first draft of the report and to remark on it, AMAN invited a number of relevant official institutions such as the Ministries of Health, Transportation, Social Affairs Ministry, Finance, as well as theStateAuditand Administrative Control Bureau, and some Palestinian Legislative Council members as well as a group of charities and civil society organizations.

AMAN's Commissioner for Combating Corruption Dr Shuaibi opened the discussion, noting that AMAN has intentionally prepared the report in an attempt to protect the rights of the disabled, to prevent their parents and relatives from exploiting their rights, to ensure that charities used this privilege properly and to manage public spending.

Researcher Mu’ayadAfanahwho wrote the report highlighted its main conclusions which were as follows:
First, there is a clear abuse of the rights of disabled people by abusing this privilege in an attempt to achieve private profits; such exploitation led to the following:
The absence of coordination between ministries leads to the chances of abusing the use of this privilege: The report showed that there is no unified ceiling for the number of custom exemptions given to disabled people and charities. This is attributed to the absence of a unified computerizedsystem between the four ministries related to this issue: the Ministries of Health, Transportation, Social Affairs and Finance. In addition, the information is not published on the websites of the ministries, which indicates a low transparency indicator.
The absence of supervision and the lack of commitment to law exacerbate the problem: The report also indicates that there is a problem in following up on the use of custom-exempted vehicles for disabled people by the specialized parties and that there is a clearfault on the part of the Ministry of Transportation in issuing regular license plates tocustom-exempted vehicles for disabled people, which makes it unpractical to follow up on these vehicles on the streets. It also showed that the exceptions violate the law. Furthermore, there is a need to coordinate between the related parties and the administrative ones in order to follow up on the use of these vehicles. This includes issuing special signs at the law dictates and following up on them on the streets by theSafety Patrols and the Traffic Police to ensure that these vehicles are used properly.

Exemptions open wide gates to granting privileges to people not deserving them: The report showed that there is a problem in the issue of the phenomena of exemptions, the people responsible for them and who is entitled to issue them. It became clear that there is a complex fault on the part of the Ministry of Finance(MoF) in issuing exemptions in contradiction to the clear law about giving custom exemptions to cars with engines larger than 2,000 cc. Likewise, no custom taxes were collected for the difference in engine power and the Ministry of Transportation agreed to give licenses to these vehicles based on the exemptions given by the MoF.
Weak follow-up after granting the exemptions increases the abuse of the privilege by families of disabled people: The report explained that there is a problem in following up on to the cases of custom exemptions and the ongoing exemptions although the person in question had died. It also indicated that the Ministry of transportation does not abide by the law when renewing the licenses. It noted that there is a need to link the computer systems of the different ministries in order to reach a higher level of coordination between them and to limit the ongoing custom exemptions although there is no need for them once the person is dead.

The presence of technical problems in the work of the custom exemption committee of vehicles used by disabled people and the presence of overlapping in laws and regulations related to the work of the custom exemption committee: The report showed that there is a problem in the role of the District or Higher health committees as according to the law that role should be limited to diagnosing the disability and not giving an opinion about granting or not granting the exemption. According to the law, their role is to “verify the medical condition of the disabled person.” The report also indicated that there is a problem in the work of the District Committees that come under social pressure as well as favoritism affecting their medical rulings.
Furthermore, the report referred to the presence of a problem in enforcing the different laws, especially in the Ministry of Transportation. There is, thus, a necessity for the government to accurately specify the law that needs to be enforced.

Second, the weakness of external and self-supervision on the exemptions for charities increases the abuse of public money: The report underlined the presence of a problem in following up on the use of custom-exempted vehicles in charities since the specialized parties (ministries) did not fulfill this role. It also highlighted that there is no effective punishment for violators and that there is a problem in the extent of the effort to make the charities abide by their own conduct regulations.

MrBasim al-Deek, Information and Communications Technology Manager at the MoF, pointed out that the difference in numbers between the ministries stems from the difference of the time in which the case is registered. For example, the Ministry of Health registers the case when the committee issues its decision while the Ministry of Transportation registers it when the vehicle is registered. As for the MoF, it registers it when the payment is made. Consequently, there is no unified number which is why the MoF and the Ministry of Transportation have put in place a computerized system to link the two ministries which will start operating next week. It will make it easy to scrutinize the granted custom exemptions. Dr Jihad Badawi, Director General of Auditory at the Ministry of Health asserted that the health committee does not operate in a suitable atmosphere in light of the number of people waiting outside the hall where the committee is meeting, which makes its work very difficult.

The audience stressed that the conclusions of the report reflect the condition on the ground. They all agreed on the following recommendations:
1) The need to establish effective coordination between the related parties in administering the custom exemptions for disabled people and charities, and the need to link computer systems of the ministries and refraining from evading the assumption of responsibility and laying it on other parties.
2) The need for all the parties to be committed to their specific duties according to the regulating executive list and to refrain from playing other roles outside their specialization
3) The needto be committed to implementing the legal texts, particularly as a large part of the violations that appeared in the report are clear and the legal texts are clear and unambiguous. There is also a need to limit the number of exemptions because they are a loophole forWasta and favoritism and a suitable incubator for corruption.
4) Working to reinvigorate the supervision on the use of the custom-exempted vehicles. It is unacceptable that the concerned ministries with all their employees and staff cannot follow up on their use, especially since the enforcement of the law in a just and transparent manner on all people without any favoritism or discrimination will prevent most violations.
5) Despite the importance of custom exemptions as a gained right for disabled people, benefiting from it for all disabled people is a lesser priority than issuing a disabled-person identity card as specified in the law. Furthermore, the cost of the custom exemptions is high for the public budget. There is a need to organize the priorities.
6) There is an urgent need to enhance the values of transparency and integrity of people ofresponsibility for the custom exemptions of disabled people and charities by working toward committing to implementing their different indicators since a shortage and deficiency in implementing them has been found.
7) This project is funded by the EU.