Thursday,16 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1383, (1 - 7 March 2018)
Thursday,16 August, 2018
Issue 1383, (1 - 7 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Unfair on corruption?

Egypt’s low score on this year’s Corruption Perception Index may not reflect the efforts being made to combat the problem, reports Niveen Wahish

 

Unfair on corruption?
Unfair on corruption?

Egypt did not do well on the 2017 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which aims to capture levels of corruption in the public sector around the world. It scored 32 out of 100 compared to 34 in 2016, and came in at 117 out of 180 countries, nine places below its 2016 position. The 117th position was shared along with four other countries.

Most Arab countries scored below 50 on the CPI for 2017. “Corruption remains endemic in the Arab states, while assaults on freedom of expression, press freedoms and civil society continue to escalate,” Transparency International (TI), the NGO that compiles the index, said.

Ghada Moussa, a political science professor at Cairo University, questioned the findings.

The index was not objective, she said, because it did not give a holistic picture of efforts to fight corruption in Egypt.

This year’s report had focused on the controversial NGO law and press freedoms because that is what the international press had focused on. “The report only focused on one aspect of what has been happening in Egypt, ignoring efforts to combat this problem,” she said.

That was not the case with Lebanon, where the report points to small strides taken with the passage of the country’s access to information law and its joining of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global standard for the good governance of oil, gas and mineral resources.

Moussa pointed to various efforts made by the Egyptian government to fight corruption, saying that these had gone unnoticed in the TI report. They included greater transparency over the budget, the simplification of procedures and the publishing of rules and regulations on a government portal, she said.

Moussa also pointed to extensive efforts taking place in parliament regarding the new procurement law. She herself was taking part in hearings on this law in which all stakeholders were involved, she said. Moreover, “the NGO law can be modified, as the president has noted,” she added.

Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen were the worst performing Arab states in the index. TI said corruption was rife in these countries because they suffer from weak public institutions, internal conflict and deep instability. “Amid ongoing violence, as well as internal wars and conflicts, all forms of good governance have eroded,” it said.

Out of 21 Arab states only two, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, scored above 50. However, TI pointed out that the index “does not capture the whole and varied picture of corruption.” For example, the report said, though the UAE and Qatar may place restrictions on civil and public freedoms, they scored high on the index due to the efficient management of public finances, improved public procurement and better access to public services and infrastructure.

TI said that fighting corruption in the Middle East and Northern Africa region required serious and genuine political will for change and reform. “Arab governments must take long-term action to establish transparent and accountable institutions, prosecute wrongdoing, and allow for citizen engagement and participation,” it said.

It also stressed the role of civil society, saying that Arab governments must promote the participation of civil society and protect activists and journalists exposing and fighting corruption.

“Without serious reform, corruption will continue to flourish, further exacerbating the political and economic instability of the region and hindering its social and economic development,” TI said.

Civil society and governments should promote laws that focus on access to information, it said. However, it also said that the introduction of anti-corruption laws and regulations would only be lip service without concomitant political and institutional reform.

TI stressed that governments and businesses should proactively disclose relevant public interest information in open-data formats. “Proactive disclosure of relevant data, including government budgets, company ownership, public procurement and political party finances, allows journalists, civil society and affected communities to identify patterns of corrupt conduct more efficiently,” it noted.

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