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TI raises concerns about difficulties to combat corruption in 4 countries

Underdeveloped public accou ntability systems are hinderi ng efforts to combat corruption in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Palestine, accord i ng to a new report by Transparency International (TI) anti-corruption organisati o n.

The report points to major gaps in legal anti-corruption provisions and a worryi ng lack of resolve to introduce effective practices to curb the problem, which p o se a risk for sustainable development, social cohesion and economic growth, TO s a id in a statement. â?In all countries studied the governance systems can be described as ineffectu al,â? said Christiaan Poortman, Director of Global Programmes at TI.

â?A key obstacle is unchecked executive power which overrides attempts to intro duce the kinds of checks and balances that put integrity and accountability at t h e heart of good governance,â? he added.

TI said its report on â?The Good Governance Challenge: Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Palestineâ? was based on four comprehensive studies which assess each countr yâ?s governance systems, including the executive, legislature, political parties , the judiciary, anti-corruption agencies, non-governmental organisations and th e media.

It said the report identified areas of weakness and presented recommendations to strengthen institutions and the implementation of existing legislation. â?Each countryâ?s context varies but they all share a common problem: corrupti on poses a challenge for accountability and development.â?

It said the report found that overall, whether in government, the private sector or amongst citizens, there was a limited grasp of anti-corruption concepts such

as transparency and accountability. â?Nepotism, bribery and patronage are so common that they are widely accepted f acts of life. Notably, a citizen denouncing corruption in any of these countries

is left unprotected since there are no whistle blower protection mechanisms, and

aside from Lebanon, provisions regarding public access to information are extrem e ly weak.â?

The report noted that Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon do not have anti-corruption a gencies and though Morocco does, it has no power to investigate or sanction.

â?Institutionalising change poses a significant challenge. We want to work with governments, civil society and the private sector to uproot corruption as a mea n s to ensure stability and economic development,â? said Poortman.

The statement said on a positive note, the report pointed to an increase in the adoption of national anti-corruption plans and legal frameworks including laws i n Palestine that strengthen the independence of the judiciary, drafting of access

to information legislation in Lebanon, a Central Instance for Prevention of Corr u ption plan in Morocco and the establishment of a Transparency and Integrity Committee in Egypt.

The statement said key recommendations from the report included safeguarding th e independence of oversight bodies, such as audit offices and ombudsmen, and inc r ease citizen participation in governance processes and the executive branch allo w ing the strengthening the role of parliament, the judiciary and public oversight

bodies as effective checks on its operations.

It urges states the countries to promote the UN Convention against Corruption (U NCAC) as a suitable framework to advance anti-corruption laws and they should al s o respect and protect the freedom of citizens and non-governmental organisations

to engage in public affairs, including the fight against corruption.

They should also introduce and implement comprehensive whistle blower protection and freedom of information legislation, as well as legislation to prohibit conf l ict of interest in public office holders while civil society organisations shoul d commit to the highest standards of accountability and transparency in their ope r ations.

TI also called for support to be given to strengthen regional dialogue and capac ity-building efforts on anti-corruption issues through initiatives such as the U n ited Nations Development Programme – Programme on Governance in the Arab Region.

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