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Corruption knocks on Tunisia’s door

March 30, 2016 at 8:49 am

There is no other talk in Tunisia than that of terrorism and corruption. Despite this, we find that it is very rare that someone is charged with corruption. It is enough to listen to the head of the National Instance for the Fight Against Corruption (INLUCC), lawyer Chawki Tabib, in order for one to feel both astonished and horrified. This man said, with no reservations: “Corruption is currently an epidemic and it can be contained by means of some preventative mechanisms. If there is no national strategic uprising to combat it and if the monitoring bodies and Tunisian judiciary are not empowered, we will turn into a mafia controlled state such as Columbia, where there are death squads, terrorism, and groups that track people and liquidate them, not for political interests, but rather for economic and influence interests.”

This dangerous statement was made a few days ago by an official who oversees the constitutional body, not only an NGO, and it confirms that Tunisia is not in a good situation, despite the important steps it is taking in the field of freedoms and democratic transition. The Tunisian body is suffering from a number of illnesses that have made it weak, faltering and sick. The most dangerous issue that the official revealed is his belief that 90 per cent of “the state is involved in 90 per cent of corruption cases”. This means that instead of the state getting rid of the gang that was utilising state institutions for illegal gain before the revolution, it has become more prone to corruption from new networks that succeeded in penetrating the administration and spreading more corruption within it, despite raising the ceiling of freedoms. By saying so, he is confirming what numerous civil society organisations have mentioned in past reports, dating back to 2014, regarding the fact that most violations reported to the INLUCC are 83 per cent from the public sector, especially in public agreements and the transportation and energy sectors, and that the youth are the social class least likely to be involved in corruption. The INLUCC head called for the protection of whistle blowers and the guarantee of their rights.

With the gravity of the outbreak of this matter, efforts are being made to resist this dangerous illness, especially by civil society organisations. However, it seems that corruption is spreading fast, which made public opinion feel a general “inability” to resist and reduce corruption. This is suggested by the fact that Transparency International has recently lowered Tunisia’s ranking in the corruption index in the public sector, dropping from 75th ranking to the 77th, according to “I Watch”, Transparency International’s chapter in Tunisia. It commented on this drop by noting the “slow pace of legislation associated with transitional justice, the strategy to combat corruption, and the lack of clarity in the political horizon.”

The corruption networks have multiplied. After the Tripoli family network dominated everyone, today, this has expanded after harsh blows were directed at the country. This allowed other parties that were afraid or laying low to take off in different directions, taking advantage of the state’s weakness and the state of disorder, especially on the customs and administrative levels. The corruption then strongly spread in the political field in order to cover its suspicious activities in the various economic and trade sectors. Hence, the state found itself accused of being negligent and not serious in combatting this expanding octopus. The former Secretary-General of the Democratic Current, Mohamed Abbou, summed up this situation by saying: “Without enforcing the law and a clear political will in resisting corruption, establishing the rules of wise governance, and creating a good work environment that encourages investors, we cannot talk about reforms in Tunisia.”

Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 29 March 2016.

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