Ramallah and Gaza – Under the slogan, “We carry on and so does hope”, AMAN Coalition for Integrity and Accountability celebrated the International Anticorruption Day, which comes on December 9th every year through its fourteenth National Integrity Ceremony. The ceremony was held simultaneously in Ramallah and the Gaza Strip to render tribute to the integrity champions of 2019. It honored those who undertook the burden and responsibility to combat corruption disclose perpetrators of corruption, prepare investigative reports to unveil acts of corruption, carry out specialized research on the situation of corruption and how to fight it. It rewarded the initiatives aiming to promote integrity in different institutions and guarantee an equitable and quality provision of services.
Al-Husseini: A milestone in the relationship between AMAN and ACC: citizens more confident to report corruption
Mr. Abdelqader Al-Hussein, Chairman of AMAN’s Board of Directors, inaugurated the ceremony highlighting the positive efforts to set an appropriate environment to hold elections, supported by all Palestinian parties. He expressed his hopes that such a step would put an end to the Palestinian political division and pave the way toward the establishment of a Palestinian government system based on national unity and partnership. He also commended the efforts made by the new government to increase citizens’ trust in state institutions and promote freedom of opinion and expression as well as openness, transparency and cooperation with civil society organizations and the media. He also stressed that all stakeholders wait anxiously for the ratification of the Law on Access to Information.
In his speech, Al-Hussein mentioned that the International Anticorruption Day coincides with the anniversary of the Frist Intifada, which produced the Declaration of Independence and re-imposed the Palestinian question on the international agenda after years of alienation. He reiterated that integrity, transparency and fighting corruption represent the best way to confront the challenges we face, mainly the measures and policies of the Israeli occupation against our Palestinian people and its intensified colonialist expansion and transfer of our people in Jerusalem. He also underscored that integrity, transparency and fighting corruption can help counter the occupaiton’s ferocious attack against Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, including educational establishments and against any Palestinian political, religious, cultural, economic, and social or media presence in the City.
A new visual emblem with a shining sun
AMAN also launched its new emblem to add to the logo a bright yellow sun, as an indication that we are guided by hope with every rising sun. The new logo projects positive energy, freedom and flagrant transparency. In the center of the sun, the name of the organization “AMAN” is inscribed in gray to reflect efficiency, effectiveness and independence. AMAN is as clear as a “spotless” sun whose light shall not conceal any act or perpetrator of corruption.
AMAN also launched its new smart phone app as part of its continuing efforts to be updated with technology and access all Palestinian citizens, mainly the youth, in a more effective way. The App provides legal advice to the witnesses and victims of corruption and does not require disclosure of personal information if the users choose so. AMAN then refers the file to competent authorities. The App also provides local and international news bulletin on local and international affairs related to integrity and anticorruption.
The Coalition also announced its new modern and user-friendly and easily accessible website, which provides a whole library of publications, reports, researches, laws and news.
Barrack: The base of action is the complementary role between governmental and non-governmental organizations:
The Head of the Palestinian Anticorruption Commission, Council Dr. Ahmad Barrack, addressed the audience and encouraged citizens to report any acts of corruption they may witness. He also declared that ACC adopts a genuine policy of openness in order to achieve a corruption-free Palestinian society. He also referred ACC’s efforts that led to the adoption of a regulation to protect corruption witnesses and whistleblowers and another regulation to govern acceptance of gifts in public service. Dr. Barrack stressed that all these efforts aim to promote integrity in public service and encourage prosecution of perpetrators of corruption.
Dr. Barrack commended the constructive partnership with AMAN Coalition, especially in the preparation of the national cross-sectoral anti-corruption strategy in the years 2020-2022. He announced the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding and partnership agreement between the two parties to highlight the complementary relations between official and non-governmental organizations in the efforts to fight corruption.
Dr. Abeer Thabet, Member of AMAN Coalition’s Integrity Award Jury, addressed the audience on behalf of the jury in the West Bank and Gaza Strip stressing on the public and transparent evaluation of all of the applications submitted to the Award Committee. She explained the accurate assessment conducted by the technical committees as per applicable criteria and explained that each sectoral committee comprises experts in the area covered by the award. Furthermore, members of different committees submit recommendations for improvement to the jury. The committees review the applications and ensure they comply with the award eligibility criteria and requirements. The process requires at times meeting with candidates to inquire about the information provided in the application or contacting official agencies to verify the exactitude of the information. Following this evaluation process, the committees submit their nominations to the jury, which comprises community figures known for their credibility, professionalism and integrity. The jury holds an annual meeting to examine and review the committees’ reports and recommendations and make a decision on granting the award under each category.
Integrity Award for the public sector
Captain Lutfi Nasser from the Palestinian Customs Police was granted the integrity award for public servants who report corruption and refuse to be part of such acts. Captain Nasser rejected a huge bribe and managed to win the case in favor of the Customs Police, which seized goods produced by an Israeli company located in the settlements illegally established on areas occupied in 1976. The Company in question filed a suit requesting financial compensation with the Jerusalem Magistrate Case against the Customs Police, claiming half a million NIS, but failed.
Following his refusal of the bribe, Captain Lutfi faced problems by the Israeli side including delays at Al-Karama Cross point during his travels, deprivation of entry permits to Jerusalem. However, Nasser did not save any effort to proceed with the case and presented a model to follow in integrity and rejection of implication in any act of corruption.
Integrity Award for the Media Sector
The media award went to investigative report by Hajer Harb from Gaza for her video investigation on “low-income housing project-business earnings – Massakin Al-ghalabah-Sabboubah”. In her video, she unveiled corruption suspicions and poor integrity in the implementation by the Ministry of Social Development in Gaza of the Omani grant to build and renovate 70 low-income housing units for the poorest communities in Gaza. The investigation revealed that relatives of senior officers in the Ministry received part of the grant without being the lists of eligible beneficiaries in the National Anti-Poverty Program, which was a main eligibility criterion for the grant.
The investigation showed that families, relatives of the representative of the Omani Agency, received grants to build housing units. It showed lack of justice in the distribution of grants to the beneficiaries without any announcement of the terms of eligibility, in total contradiction with the criteria of integrity and transparency. Furthermore, 13 houses handed over ‘with full finishing’ have engineering flaws and the concerned beneficiaries received warnings from the Ministry that they would not receive the remaining part of the grant if they submitted complaints.
The Integrity Award Jury also decided to financially and morally tribute other investigative journalists in appreciation of their efforts to unveil cases of corruption. Yahia Al-Ya’qubi received an award to disclosing the file on the lands granted by government ministries in the Gaza Strip to its employees as repayment of their provident funds, revealing a huge drop in the prices of the lands given to these employees. The investigation also uncovered fraud by real-estate traders, middlemen and brokers together with shell transactions that triggered losses in the price of lands by 50-60%.
Fadi Al-Hassani, in his investigative report, discovered that some farmers transported wastewater from Khazaah Municipality to irrigate agricultural land. The sewage was transporting before the tillage of the land under the pretext of setting seedbeds in the land in compliance with drivers of wastewater vehicles and under total absence of any monitoring by government entities.
AMAN also tribute a number of journalists who fought corruption with their investigative reports, including Ahmad Al-Koumi for his report on the procedures undertaken by police forces in Gaza in arresting people. Tribute was also rendered to Mohammad Al-Jamal for his report on pollution and diseases spread by the settlements at the frontiers of Gaza among the inhabitants of the besieged Gaza Strip. Another tribute went to Mohammad Al-Khalidi for his report on the violations in Tomouh 2 project in Gaza and to Sujood Assi for her unveiling of serious violations and breaches in the forensic medicine department.
Award for best accountability media program
The Jury awarded tribute to three talk shows under the category of best accountability media program, focusing on the role of investigative journalism in unveiling serious crimes of corruption and holding officials responsible for their decisions in addition to advocating for the causes of marginalized and poor groups. Reem Omari’s Shid Hilak ya wattan talk show on Watan Radio received the award together with Nizar Habas’s Saat Raml talk show on Watan TV. A third award went to Mohammad Al-lala from People’s Radio in Gaza.
Award for best research on anticorruption
Researcher Mohammad Al-Haneini received the award for best research on anticorruption. In his research, he shed light on the current reality in government institutions and on how to invest in religious legacy to combat corruption and promote integrity, transparency and accountability in the Palestinian public sector. He used diversified research methodologies including distributing 800 questionnaires to public servants in governmental ministerial, non-ministerial and security agencies and in district offices and municipalities to formulate his findings and recommendations.
Tribute to civil society organizations
The jury also tribute the Palestinian Advisory Commission for Developemt of Nongovernmental Organizations and its partners, which endeavors to build the capacities in the areas of human rights, democracy and economic empowerment. The Commission had a clear presence in the promotion of integrity, transparency and anticorruption efforts. It responded to good governance indicators and mainstreamed a system of integrity and anticorruption in its strategies, action plans and activities. It played a positive role in promoting transparency and preventing waste of public funds; it further proactively concluded a partnership contract with ACC to develop anti-corruption preventive measures in civil society organizations.
Award to local authorities
The jury rendered tribute to the municipalities of Maghazi and Al-Nusseirat in Gaza and Sa’ir Municipality in South Hebron. The three municipalities received equal score under the Integrity Index prepared by Transparency International and adapted to the Palestinian context by AMAN. The award was granted to promote their commitment to best practices and disclosure of their system of governance in a manner that enhances transparency in management and provision of services to citizens. The municipalities further apply full disclosure and public openness processes.
Honoring public sector initaitives
The jury also granted an award to the service public institutions that adopted initiatives to promote integrity and transparency in their service delivery. The award targets the institutions that introduce systems, procedures or policies to promote integrity and transparency in delivering public services to citizens. Five initiatives were in the West Bank and a sixth was in the Gaza Strip. They include: open door policy in the public prosecution office in the Gaza Strip, which allows for oversight of the activities of members of the prosecution in different districts. The initiative also aims to strengthen public monitoring of the activities of the prosecution offices and law enforcement agencies. On the other hand, AMAN rendered tribute to the Ministry of Local Government for its initiative to prepare easily legible budgets, citizens’ budgets, and the production of a manual on social responsibility tools and its distribution to municipalities. The Ministry also issued policy papers on social responsibility and youth participations. The award for best use of IT resources and promotion of integrity and transparency and equal opportunities in appointment to temporary field posts at the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Another initiative was the promotion of protection values for beneficiaries of the Palestinian Alimony Fund to make sure that only eligible beneficiaries receive the service to avoid waste of public funds. Another award want to the Palestine Standardization Institute for its initiative to confront bribery and adopt international standards in its work procedures. Another award was granted to the Ministry of Transport for promoting transparency and using a computerized system for driving theoretical tests, medical exams and for installing cameras to document driving tests.
The ceremony was attended by over 500 participants from the West Bank and Gaza including representatives of public and civil society organizations as well as friend so AMAN and partners in anticorruption efforts together with representatives of donor countries, ambassadors and consuls as well as university students, researchers, media representatives and scholars.