Gaza – A recent report of the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) recommended that laws on the allocation of public land be consolidated in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. A single law will prescribe specific and integral mechanisms and criteria for allocating and valuating public land. Laws ensure the integrity, transparency and effective accountability of the decision making process. According to AMAN’s recommendations, a consolidated law will identify the authorities in charge of land allocation and safeguard their independence from any undue political or partisan influences. AMAN’s report is published against the backdrop of decisions made by the Gaza-based Palestinian Legislative Council, by which public land was illegally distributed to public servants as a compensation for salary arrears.
Titled The Environment of Integrity, Transparency and Accountability in Public Land Allocations in the Gaza Strip, the report highlights that supervising bodies dealing with public/state/government land allocations did not take measures to enhance their integral functions. The report also demonstrates that these bodies lack a code of professional conduct. Relevant staff do not submit financial disclosure statements nor do they disclose conflicts of interest. A policy is not in place so as to receive complaints or provide measures to ensure protection of whistleblowers.
In addition, the report asserts that supervisory bodies in charge of land allocation have not implemented measures to ensure equitable opportunities between potential beneficiaries. Also, measures have not been taken to make sure that public land is not used to pursue personal interests or appease power brokers. The land allocation procedure has not maintained equal treatment of low- and high-ranking public servants, who would benefit from allocated land plots for housing in the Gaza Strip. Additionally, it has not been clear which bodies valuated land or how credible the approved valuations were.
In relation to transparency, the report shows that neither measures nor policies for disclosing and disseminating information on public land allocations are lacking. In terms of accountability, the public land allocation process is not supported by a complaint handling system or challenge process. Oversight units are understaffed and inexperienced.
In general, AMAN’s report aims at reviewing the government land allocation policy, which has been implemented in the Gaza Strip since 2007. It examines indicators of integrity and transparency in the land allocation process. In addition to identifying control mechanisms, the report investigates the mechanisms used to hold responsible bodies to account.
In the ensuing discussion, participants highlighted that state land was an essential resource for development and reflected state sovereignty over natural resources. Discussants also stressed the need to immunise the environment of integrity and accountability within the Gaza-based Palestinian Land Authority. AMAN’s recommendations should be taken into consideration.