Saturday,16 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1310, (1 - 7 September 2016)
Saturday,16 December, 2017
Issue 1310, (1 - 7 September 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Minister not out of the woods

Outgoing minister of supply Khaled Hanafi is expected to be investigated with after MPs filed complaints with the prosecutor-general, reports Gamal Essam El-Din 

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Al-Ahram Weekly

In a statement to reporters on Saturday, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said a new minister of supply and internal trade would be named within a week following the resignation of Khaled Hanafi. Ismail, however, indicated that the selection of a new minister of supply would not be part of “a cabinet reshuffle”.

“It is too early to suggest that the resignation of the minister of supply would be followed by a minor cabinet reshuffle,” said Ismail, indicating that Hanafi “did a good job and that his resignation would by no means negatively affect the government’s massive subsidy programmes”. Ismail also disclosed that “Minister of Industry Tarek Qabil would run the affairs of the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade to make sure that subsidised goods are available on the market and until a new minister of supply is appointed”.

In a press conference following the cabinet’s meeting on 25 August, Hanafi said he decided to resign “out of respect for public opinion”. He said “as most of the complaints filed are related to personal matters, and even if most of these complaints are highly exaggerated, I decided to resign from office”.

Hanafi’s resignation came after one month of accusations of corruption and graft levelled against him in parliament. It was scheduled this week that Hanafi would face nine interpellations that led to accusations of corruption and misuse of public funds. His resignation, however, made it difficult for these interpellations to be conducted. Deputy Chairman of parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee Medhat Al-Sherif told Al-Ahram Weekly that “the resignation of Hanafi led to the elimination of these interpellations which sought to withdraw confidence from the outgoing minister of supply.” “It is clear that the government opted that minister Hanafi submit his resignation rather than parliament use the nine interpellations to withdraw confidence from him,” said Al-Sherif.

Al-Sherif, however, indicated that “MPs still have the right to discuss Hanafi’s alleged shady practices when a report prepared by a parliamentary fact-finding committee on wheat supplies comes up for debate in a plenary session”.

The report was set to be discussed on Monday, but Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs that the government’s new Value-Added Tax (VAT) law would take priority.

Parliament’s fact-finding committee concluded in a 78-page report on Sunday that Hanafi and officials in the ministries of supply, agriculture, industry, and foreign trade should be referred to prosecution for alleged rampant corruption and graft in the wheat supply sector. “Minister of Supply Khaled Hanafi should be held responsible for all forms of corruption and graft in the wheat procurement sector, including supply, storage, mills and production of bread,” said the parliamentary report.

Accordingly, the report recommended that “the minister of supply and other senior officials should be referred to prosecution authorities and the Illicit Gains Apparatus (IGA) to be investigated for corruption and misuse of public funds and to determine whether they made huge (illicit) profits from their influential posts”.

Magdi Malek, the head of the fact-finding committee and an MP from the Upper Egypt governorate of Minya, told reporters that the report, which is backed by hundreds of documents on corruption in the wheat sector, will be sent to Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek and the IGA to investigate officials affiliated with various ministries.

Malek also indicated that the report recommends that all citizens and low-ranking officials who testified before the committee on corruption in the wheat supply sector should be given special protection in order not to face retribution.

The report is divided into seven parts that cover all stages of wheat supply operations, with part four focussing on the alleged “irregularities” surrounding the supply minister.

“Minister Hanafi refrained from exercising tight control on wheat supplies — which found their way into the black market — or taking legal measures against owners of bakeries who used ration cards to obtain hundreds of tons of subsidised flour without the knowledge of the card owners,” the report said. “The cost of these corrupt practices reached LE11 million,” the report said.

The report also states that owners of wheat silos, especially those on the Cairo-Alexandria desert road, paid more than LE700,000 in bribes to a number of Supply Ministry officials to look the other way.

The report claimed that Hanafi exploited his influential position as minister by allowing private mills to obtain large quantities of wheat at the expense of public mills.

In their comment on Hanafi’s resignation, MPs insisted that their campaign against him was by no means related to personal matters.

“This campaign is about deep-rooted corruption in the wheat sector and how minister Hanafi and other officials exploited this to secure a big fortune,” said MP Mustafa Bakri.

Bakri told reporters on Sunday that in his testimony to the prosecutor-general he insisted that Hanafi’s corrupt practices are not only related to the wheat supply sector. “They are extensive, covering the supply of sugar and rice and other subsidised food products, and cost the government LE2 billion in lost revenues,” said Bakri.

Bakri claimed that Hanafi used his influential post to serve a mafia of importers. “He allowed them to import sugar, rice and wheat at the expense of local production,” said Bakri. Backed up by 500 documents and CDs, he demanded that Hanafi be barred from travelling abroad.

Bakri called upon Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to appoint a serving or retired army general as new minister of supply. “This is the only way to impose discipline on this sector which is rife with massive corruption,” said Bakri.

Bakri indicated that he submitted documents on Hanafi’s stay in Semiramis Hotel from February 2014 — the month he was named minister of supply — to August 2016. “The cost of this stay stood as high as LE7 million,” said Bakri, asking why Hanafi chose to stay “in Egypt’s most expensive hotel and why should the Ministry of Supply foot the bill”.

Sadek decided this week that Bakri’s complaint against Hanafi be investigated by the Public Funds Prosecution. Sadek also ordered that a number of businessmen who are in ownership of wheat silos as well as officials related with ministries of supply, agriculture and foreign trade be banned from travelling abroad. “The assets of these businessmen and officials will be sequestrated pending an investigation into wheat supply irregularities,” prosecutor Sadek said in a statement.

Al-Sherif expects that Hanafi will soon be summoned for investigation. “This comes after the government found that the complaints against him are well-documented and that he should resign and then be questioned,” said Al-Sherif.

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