Thursday,14 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1276, (31 December 2015 - 6 January 2016))
Thursday,14 December, 2017
Issue 1276, (31 December 2015 - 6 January 2016))

Ahram Weekly

Corruption in question

Statements about the size of government funds squandered because of corruption could be exaggerated, writes Niveen Wahish

Economy
Economy
Al-Ahram Weekly

While everybody agrees that there is corruption in the government apparatus, nobody had ever quantified it until head of the Central Auditing Organisation (CAO) Hisham Genena recently stated that corruption within the government had cost the country some LE600 billion in 2015.

The statement took people by surprise because of its enormous size. LE600 billion represents over 50 per cent of Egypt’s 2014/15 budget, which totalled around LE800 billion.

In response to the statement, the presidency formed a fact-finding committee to look into the matter that includes Genena’s deputy as well as representatives of the ministries of interior, planning, finance and justice.

According to the daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, the committee has seized evidence of financial corruption in the ministries of the interior, transport, communication, finance, irrigation and agriculture. It also said that the funds lost to corruption were likely to be in the “tens of billions” rather than the hundreds of billions stated by Genena.

“The figure sounds implausible,” Walaa Gad, head of Partners for Transparency (PFT), a non-governmental organisation, told Al-Ahram Weekly. “If the figure covers three years, it is still huge but is more credible,” he added.

Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that a spokesperson for the CAO had dismissed the figure as “inaccurate,” saying that it reflected the total cost of corruption since 2012.

What was most perplexing, according to Gad, was why the head of the CAO would go to the press with such allegations instead of going directly to the public prosecutor with documentation.

The fact that a committee has been formed to investigate the matter implied that he had not gone through the official channels to report such malpractices, he said. Gad also questioned why the presidency would form the committee without first talking to Genena directly and finding out how he had come up with the figures, since this suggested a lack of communications between the two entities.

Genena was appointed in 2012 by ousted former president Mohamed Morsi, and his term expires in 2016. His statement came on the heels of the appointment earlier this month by the presidency of two deputies in his office, some observers saying that these had been appointed in a bid to force him to resign as he does not see eye-to-eye with the presidency. 

Gad, whose NGO tracks corruption cases that are under investigation, said “most departments in the government suffer from corruption, including in the ministries of supply, municipalities and agriculture.”

A report issued in November by PFT showed that the number of corruption cases in November had seen a 50 per cent increase on those recorded in October. The majority of the cases were in the Ministry of Supply, but there had also been serious cases in other ministries as well, Gad said.

He said that if the government was serious about doing something about corruption, it would need to carry through amendments to existing legislation, as well as issue new legislation to tackle illegal profiteering and the squandering of public funds.

He said that a law protecting whistle-blowers was essential and that there was a need for a new national authority to combat corruption.

Egypt ranked 94th out of 175 countries on the international NGO Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2014. This was an improvement on the previous year, when it ranked 114th out of 177 countries, but nonetheless remains a very low ranking.

This Index ranks countries according to how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be.

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