Thursday,16 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)
Thursday,16 August, 2018
Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Parliamentary watchdog

Claims that more than LE600 billion of public funds were misappropriated between 2012 and 2013 are discussed by MPs, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Parliamentary watchdog
Parliamentary watchdog
Al-Ahram Weekly

Following a brief debate on Sunday, 415 MPs voted in favour of forming an ad hoc parliamentary committee to investigate claims by Hisham Geneina, head of the Central Auditing Agency, that corruption in public and government circles resulted in the loss of LE600 billion in state revenues between 2012 and 2015.

House of Representatives Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs the committee will be formed in accordance with Article 82 of the House’s internal bylaws.

“The ad hoc committee will embark on its task once the assembly finishes voting on 341 presidential decrees passed since the removal of Mohamed Morsi from office,” said Abdel-Aal.

“The committee, which is expected to begin its job next week, will also check the report of the fact-finding commission formed by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi a month ago to examine Geneina’s claims.”

Deputy Speaker Suleiman Wahdan told reporters on Saturday night that after reviewing requests submitted by MPs the House of Representative’s internal bureau came up with two options.

“The first was that a specialised parliamentary committee, including legal, financial and economic experts, be formed to review Geneina’s statement and the report made by the commission which examined his charges. The second option was for the speaker to allow MPs to open a debate on Geneina’s statement in a plenary session on the grounds that the issue has become a priority for the public and the media.”

Wahdan disclosed that Abdel-Aal had received a written request from more than 100 MPs urging him not only to open an investigation into Geneina’s allegations but to refer Geneina to prosecution authorities for questioning.

“There is no denying that in claiming that corruption led to the loss of LE600 billion in 2015 Geneina has shocked the public. Geneina’s claims have left Egyptians confused and wondering how parliament can tackle this critical issue.”

Wahdan accused Geneina of inflating the losses for “political reasons”.

“We all know that Geneina belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood and is doing his best, ahead of the anniversary of the 25 January Revolution, to serve their agenda,” said Wahdan.

Wahdan, who is now member of the Wafd Party, was for years affiliated to the Mubarak-era National Democratic Party (NDP).

“I think the ad hoc committee will be able to expose the truth behind Geneina’s corruption claims and expose the malice behind his statements.”

MPs who requested that an investigation be opened into Geneina’s statement are divided into two camps over how the request should be dealt with.

MPs affiliated with Pro-Egyptian State Coalition, led by journalist Mustafa Bakri, believe that Geneina, who was appointed head of the CAA in September 2012 by Mohamed Morsi, is loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood and acting on behalf of its leaders to defame the Al-Sisi regime.

Bakri says the report made by the commission charged by Al-Sisi with investigating Geneina’s claims of corruption concluded on 12 January that they were biased, inaccurate and deliberately sought to tarnish the image of Egypt.

“This inflated figure could see Egypt fall on international transparency indices and scare investors away from Egypt,” said Bakri. “Not only must to expose Geneina’s lies about corruption in Egypt, we must also refer him to the prosecution authorities to be investigated on his misguided reports about corruption in Egypt.”

Sameh Seif Al-Yazal, a former intelligence officer and leader of the majority In Support of Egypt coalition, also accuses Geneina of deliberately misleading the public about corruption and defaming Egypt.

Seif Al-Yazal told reporters that if a majority of MPs requested it, Geneina could be forced to appear before parliament for questioning. “Should the figures he provided prove incorrect he could be dismissed from his position and referred to the prosecution on defamation charges.”

In a statement issued in December, Geneina said his dismissal from the CAA would signal an end to any serious investigation into corruption in Egypt.

A second group of MPs, led by the chairman of the Reform and Development Party, Anwar Al-Sadat, insists “any discussion of Geneina’s statement should not be retaliatory in nature”.

“If we give the impression we want to dismiss the top auditor simply for making a statement on corruption we will damage the reputation of parliament and allow Geneina to emerge as the winner,” said Al-Sadat.

“The best course would be for the speaker to open the matter to debate. Then I would suggest Geneina be summoned before the House so we can hear his defence, instead of attacking him.”

On Sunday the House endorsed Decree No 89/2015, which allows the president to dismiss the heads of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), the Administrative Control Authority (ACA), CAA and Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority (EFSA) if any one of four conditions are met: the existence of solid evidence that the official had compromised national security, evidence of intention to harm national interests or damage the reputation of other public figures, evidence of moral laxity or of a health condition that could impair the officials from performing their jobs.

The CAA, which fell under parliamentary control in the 1970s, was placed under the purview of the presidency in October 1998. Its main role is to investigate the finances of state authorities, make regular independent reports about their financial positions and refer them to parliament and the president for discussion.

Justice Minister Ahmed Al-Zend announced that under the constitution Al-Sisi can dismiss chairpersons of watchdog institutions in cases in which they “deliberately cause damage to the state’s interests”.

“The commission’s report fell short of recommending that Geneina be dismissed and it is now up to parliament and the president to decide his fate,” said Al-Zend. (see p.9)

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