Salutary was the latest decision of the Tunisian President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to establish a “Commission of Inquiry to examine the problem of corruption and mistakes committed by some officials.” It was part of a set of new measures to meet the expectations and demands of the Tunisian people, in the social movements experienced by Tunisia in recent days and which Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi placed in his press conference, at the heart of the economic and social mechanism to achieve and create additional growth to meet employment needs.
The title of this commission is in itself very significant. It will deal with the corruption and excesses or mistakes committed by some officials. The Tunisian Prime Minister, initially, said that the composition of the commission “will be subject to consultation with stakeholders and will include national figures whose credibility should be above all suspicion, and this to repair errors.” We will therefore wait to see, especially since both Chambers (Deputies and Advisers) have been called to discuss it and certainly be among the stakeholders in this decision. We hope and we are sure that this composition will be made public soon and that its discussions (those of the commission to investigate corruption) will be made public too to demonstrate to those who doubt the commitment of the highest authority in the Tunisian State to move to action and punish the culprits, far from any attempt or any desire for any “witch hunt.”
The fact that the presidential decision refers to corruption and “errors committed by some officials” implies a deep awareness of the highly negative impact of this plague on society, the interests of the Tunisian citizen, investment and free enterprise and a commitment to publicly denounce and combat it.
We have indeed heard a lot about some [not to generalize and to make clear that no all administrations are so] Authority which grants permits in return for favors, whether material or not, which issues documents only through a “tip” and where even the right to work can be monetized. We also heard of some Customs [body overall healthy, it must be specified] that it is possible to import without paying duty and allow some traffic provided that certain tax officials line their pockets [fortunately not all, for the citizen and the State Treasury] for whom the amounts of adjustments are set according to “bribe”, but also a certain justice to whom justice is synonymous with money. There still exists in Tunisia, thank God, honest and upright justice and certainly it will be the one that will conduct the investigation into the coming corruption cases.
The presidential decision also speaks of mistakes by some officials, and it is hard to imagine that the presidential decision was taken without that files and errors have already been identified and will be investigated.
One of the journalists attending the press conference of the Prime Minister of Tunisia, Wednesday, January 12, 2011, requested more details about this inquiry, referring to the ill-gotten goods and wondering whether the investigation will cover this aspect in the fight against corruption incurred now by Tunisia, in the second part of the answer of the Head of State to the demands of social movements.
It is worth noting that the international rating of Tunisia on corruption by Transparency International has never been neither good nor bad and that more than one institution highly ranked Tunisia in terms of public spending.
So if corruption exists, it is not at that level that it will be found. It will rather be found in a certain level of administrative decision and also in a certain level of some corporate bodies as mentioned. The final decision of the Tunisian head of state in any case proves that there is a real and strong will to initiate and fight the war against corruption, which corrodes badly, the economy, undermines the investment, harms the interests and rights of citizens and reflects a bad image of institutions.