Corruption rife in Morocco, Transparency International alleges
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 16/12/10
Thirty-four per cent of Moroccans admit to having paid a bribe in the past 12 months, according to a recent study by Transparency International.
For its 2010 Global Corruption Barometer, released on December 9th, the Berlin-based organisation interviewed more than 91,500 people in 86 countries and territories. Nearly one thousand heads of household, including 483 women, participated in the survey.
Seventy-nine per cent of Moroccans interviewed felt that corruption had either increased over recent years or stagnated while 91.7% felt that ordinary citizens can play a positive role in countering the problem. Although Transparency noted great potential for the public to get involved in combating the graft, 38% said that they would not be inclined to speak out in cases of corruption.
The release of the report coincided with the first-ever meeting of the International Corruption Hunters Alliance (ICHA). The head of Morocco's Central Authority for the Prevention of Corruption (ICPC), Abdessalam Aboudrar, participated in the Washington gathering, which brought together more than 200 officials from 134 countries.
Despite government efforts to tackle the issue, graft remains rampant across Morocco, with even the government officials openly admitting the extent of the problem.
Selham M, who works in the building trade, had to pay a sum of money "under the table" to the adjudicating panel before being allowed to bid for a public contract.
"They told me I didn't have the necessary references. It left me completely stuck, because I needed to get my business going. I'm against corruption, but first we need to clean up the business world so that competition can take place on a transparent basis," he told Magharebia.
Kawter Benmehdi, a management assistant, said that sometimes, in order to receive paperwork on time, it is necessary to bribe minor officials, or face the prospect of hanging around, doing nothing for several days.
According to Transparency Maroc chief Azzeddine Akesby, the lack of legislation to protect members of the public discourages those who have witnessed or suffered corruption from reporting it.
At the Parliament plenary session on December 8th, majority and opposition MPs questioned Public Sector Modernisation Minister Mohamed Saad Alami about the problem.
Parliamentarian Mustapha Mohamed Ibrahimi considered that, despite recent anti-corruption measures, the reality of graft has not changed, and is seriously damaging the principles of competition and reducing the attractiveness of investment.
For his part, MP Lahbib Choubani said that the government had demonstrated its powerlessness in the face of this scourge, calling for top officials to open up their departments to full public scrutiny.
"Corruption has become culturally embedded in society, and we need public awareness campaigns to eradicate this evil," Representative Omar Hjira said, adding that even ordinary citizens should bear the blame since they are the ones who pay bribes.
Meanwhile, MP Abdelkader Tatou stressed the need to start by attacking large-scale corruption, which is the biggest danger, rather than focusing on minor officials who resort to bribes because they are poorly paid.
Alami said the government was determined to put an end to the problem, reminding that it had adopted a two-year plan in October, designed to prevent and combat corruption. The programme aims to raise moral standards among the public and introduce rules to guarantee transparency between the citizen and government, in financial management and public tenders as well as strengthen control mechanisms within the public administration.
"We shall put some concrete mechanisms in place to put an end to this problem," Alami pledged.
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