20 December 2012

Morocco Battles Corruption

Rabat — Morocco launched an awareness campaign earlier this month warning people against corruption.

"It's a cultural phenomenon. You therefore have to tackle it at the earliest possible stage," Abdeladim El Guerrouj, the minister delegate for public service, said December 10th at a Rabat press conference held to unveil the new media blitz.

Sociologist Samira Kassimi agreed, nothing that corruption had become part of Moroccan society and culture.

"I hope the announcements will encourage the public to reclaim their rights, without being forced to hand over bribes," she said.

The government's approach does not just involve raising public awareness. It also includes measures to strengthen options available to the courts.

Current laws have not enabled objectives to be met, El Guerrouj said.

It is also about strengthening the role played by monitoring institutions such as the Central Authority for the Prevention of Corruption (ICPC).

"In our report, we underlined the urgency of getting a strategy in place," ICPC chairman Abdesselam Aboudrar said.

"At the government level, there's a desire to fight corruption, particularly by publishing lists of transport and quarrying permits, submitting Court of Accounts files to the courts, tracking down 'phantom civil servants', enforcing the idea of not holding more than one office at a time in the education or health services, and so on," he added.

Such measures should not be introduced in isolation but should be part of a general policy in order to be effective and receive public support, he told Magharebia.

A similar chord was struck by political analyst Bahia Fikri. While a public awareness campaign was necessary, the first step should be to tackle legal reforms by introducing a system through which the public could access information, the analyst said.

Reforms also need to increase protection for victims and whistle-blowers, Fikri added.

Opinions vary among the public, with some believing change will come, while others think the problem is so deeply rooted and complex that it will never disappear.

Managerial assistant Sanae Chekhmani, 32, falls into the first category. She said that if the efforts made by the government were genuine and followed through to the end, then the problem could be completely eradicated. She said she favoured the public announcements encouraging people not keep quiet and to report corruption.

But student Hamid Chetatou said that even if the awareness campaign were to continue for a year, things for the public would not change so long as civil servants within the administration tried to abuse the system,

"Of course you must not over-generalise. But it has become a widespread practice, and seen as normal by the corrupt and the public alike," he said.

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