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Wednesday 28 September 2022
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Tunisia: The minister who wants to list the honest and therefore list the corrupt

Minister Responsible for the Issue of Corruption, Abderrahmane Ladgham seemed a little too obsessed, like the rest of the Government, by the RCD whose members he sees everywhere and who seems to be not willing to apply the theories of his position to those who compose the Government of which he is a member.

Son of the late Behi Ladgham, a former Prime Minister of the first Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba and oncologist by profession, the minister of good governance has spoken to us, without convincing us of his idea of good governance. This was the case when answering our questions about appointments and the way some other officials were changed, such as in the National Radio. Yet the minister is carrying a project in some respects ambiguous, as when he spoke of a Manichean list of honest, because in front, there’s a list of those who are not. Interview:

 

Is it part of good governance to proceed, as your government did, to appointments where the partisan nature seems to dominate any other criteria?

Theoretically, political appointments are made according to and obey the logic of the balance between the ruling parties and others.

We noticed the same thing for the rest of appointments including governors and CEOs!

I did not notice anything like that. I have not read their membership cards and I have no idea of their political affiliations, because there is also the RCD, which is everywhere. Personally and in terms of principles, I am against the politicization of senior positions within the government. By cons, if I see that these appointments follow a strategy, I can but denounce it.

And you see no strategy there?

For me, there is no strategy, and the day I would see that things go as you say, then I should check that these people really belong to a well determined political party in command positions. There, it is no longer possible. But if they are activists, I think we all have a political bent.

We have seen in recent appointments that those who were replaced were not even thanked and were even less aware of their replacement. Are these practices of a government that preaches good governance?

[The Minister takes a deep breath, as if to give himself time to respond, at the same time betraying his discomfort with the question, before answering in a professorial manner].Good governance is to detect the disease and eradicate it quickly. If nothing is done, we are accused of slowness, and if you act quickly, we are accused of acting a lot …

There are … as you know, art and manner. At least the latter was not, we think, present. Do not you think so?

It depends on who’s concerned. If someone does not obey the standards of good management, the government has the right to do so. It would have been perhaps better to care of the manner…

And you had not done it!

I do it myself. You certainly want to make me say things I would not say, but I’ll tell you one thing. The operational positions are functional. They have not been dismissed, but changed. We always lose our position, for one reason or another, and the State is not obliged to give public the reasons for this change. If you detect a corrupt and you change him, do you think we should say that he is corrupt? For now, I think not and the country cannot stand it, because you’ll have people who will come and dislodge him.

What can you tell to the CEOs of public companies, who feel increasingly singled out, attacked and accused of being the remains of the old regime and who are afraid and unable to work while they are the ones who ensured the continuity of public services…?

I calm them and tell them we have no idea of revenge or any determination to uproot, supposedly, evil with the creation of evil. Instead, the prime minister has always insisted not to take revenge on people who generally have nothing to do with the old regime, but are rather state officials who worked for the State. And if Tunisia was able to resist last year, it is because of these 90% of honest people who have a culture of best interests of the state and public service.

How can we believe you, when you talk of establishing a “List of integrity,” a list that can be described as demonizing as it would list all whom the new Government considers as honest?

We are obliged [he says in hammering the B of obliged] to establish a list of integrity, if we want to establish a serious policy of good governance and fight against corruption. This will safeguard the interests of the state and it will also preserve public enterprises and citizens. This does not mean that this list will be politically motivated; on the contrary …

The risk does exist…!

The risk exists in all cases and I, too, might be accused of having been in contact with Ben Ali and taking money from the former president.

Had you done it?

I met him once in my life, twenty years ago.

You mentioned also at the meeting with the CEOs of public companies, the decision to establish regional and local good governance committees. Will be they structures of what we might call the “police of good governance” or structures of super controllers?

They are not policemen. They will just make sure to establish in their respective administrations, a policy of good governance, against corruption and for implementing a culture of good governance. They will also be cells that will keep track of certain cases subject to control, because of corruption in their administrations and inform us about the situation in administrations.

In fact, controllers of corruption!

There are already 45 types of inspection bodies and our idea is not to add one. Once this system in place, the Ministry of Good Governance will disappear and there will remain only a national administration of good governance for preventive action and not for control.

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