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Rampant corruption annuls reforms in Morocco

Moroccan teachers march to the Ministry of Education to protest for job security in Rabat, Morocco on 8 April 2019 [Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency]
Moroccan teachers march to the Ministry of Education to protest for job security in Rabat, Morocco on 8 April 2019 [Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency]

While Moroccans feel the repercussions of corruption on their quality of life, official and non-official data continually reveals its crippling impact on development in the kingdom. Publications on corruption strongly evidence not only ubiquitous malpractices but also the inadequate measures of transparency, accountability and care for common wellbeing.

Most importantly, the Supreme Audit Court (SAC), founded in 1979, regularly monitors public expenditure at national and regional levels. Indications of mismanagement have overwhelmed its annual reports, however. This year, the report further stresses the paradoxes that corruption creates between the sums allocated to public necessities and the hardship that the population undergoes.

The report highlights ubiquitous corruption and mismanagement. For instance, only around eight out of every 1,000 companies pay taxes regularly. Also, public investment yields limited outcomes, aggravated by technical and financial gaffes, delivery delays and lack of needs analyses before planting industrial and offshoring zones. Fraud, mismanagement and administrative inefficiency are embedded deeply in a country that launches reform projects continuously.

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One domain the report tackles is Morocco’s readiness to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030. Taking the ministries of health and education as examples, the report clearly pinpoints the very limited impact of their procedures to meet SDGs. Consequently, the absence of a clear vision and precise coordination between institutions makes the implementation and sponsorship of the goals hard to evaluate, despite the urgent need for reforming and improving health and education services.

The report also devotes a remarkable section to the National Office for Sanitary Security of Foods (ONSSA). It informs that Moroccans consume uncontrolled foods. That is, risks to public health are not measured by any mechanism, the quality of public eateries is never checked on-site, pesticides are never evaluated in vegetables and fruits and genetically-modified foods are out of control too. Put differently, despite the big danger, ONSSA hardly monitors the foods that circulate in Moroccan markets.

Fixing such deleterious aspects rests with politicians. Many preferred escapism instead. For example, the government, in the weekly hearing, informed the press of forming a taskforce to follow up the recommendations, whereas suing the wrongdoers was the Public Executor’s responsibility. The problem is that mismanagement is not taken for a crime, while the culture of impunity helps corrupt officials to escape.

The minister of agriculture and fisheries, under whose aegis ONSSA functions, considered the report an attack to tarnish his reputation personally. Added to ONSSA, the report uncovers serious mismanagement and irresponsibility in the very lucrative, but fraudulent, domain of fishing: insufficient infrastructure (only half of the planned markets were built), inadequate staff (two technicians control the quality of 500 tonnes of fish daily in Casablanca), most fish export goes to Spain instead of diversifying foreign markets, etc. In that case, how did the minister expect the audit report to deal with his failures? And how come that he joins the new cabinet that aims to rectify economic setbacks?

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Noteworthy too is the fact that the SAC report does not cover institutions of sovereignty. For example, the report highlights corruption in public service media, but not in the media regulator because it is above financial accountability, similar to the royal palace, the military, and constitutional institutions, despite the billions of dirhams they spend. They have their own courts, which hampers their monitoring, though the parliament customarily agrees on their budgets without discussion. Auditing all public expenditure may reveal the genuine weight of corruption, far beyond the already unacceptable levels in SAC reports.

Therefore, if the SAC reports unveil nonstop corruption that damages public funds, why are Rif Hirak activists, or protesters generally, behind bars? Had public funds been spent decently on the much-needed roads, hospitals, schools, universities or job opportunities, public dissent would have changed into constructive energy for the country.

Furthermore, keeping the annual report as mere ink on paper encourages impunity and carelessness towards laws. Today, the public opinion sets great expectations on the new cabinet, the government of “high caliber”. However, with its inability to curb corruption or hold wrongdoers accountable for their crimes against public money in an impoverished country, the government effort will, too, remain mere hot air.

Besides, the public expects the formation of the Economic Model Committee, which the king mentioned in his recent speeches. The committee will work out a roadmap to fix the numerous gaps in the developmental outcome of the Moroccan economy. Nevertheless, with that torrent of corruption and pockets of resistance to reform, it may be difficult for the committee to change one iota.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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