Tripoli — The Maghreb marked International Anti-Corruption Day on Monday (December 9th) with grim news on the fight against bribery.
The latest Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) from Transparency International, published December 3rd, showed little to no improvement in graft across North Africa.
In Libya, the situation got worse. The country was ranked as one of the most corrupt on the planet, coming in at 172 out of 177 nation-states surveyed; behind Mali, Iraq and Syria.
To combat the problem, Libyan authorities met Monday in Tripoli to draft a national strategy. The event was organised by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in co-operation with the Libyan Transparency Association.
Libya corruption is "a culture instilled decades ago", said General National Congress (GNC) member Majeda al-Fallah.
"This disease is killing us and is preventing us from building a new Libya," Planning Minister Issa Tuwejri said.
"Corruption undermines the economy, hinders development and prevents us from realising justice and equality. Studies have shown that a 1-million euro bribe causes damages worth 100 million euros," the minister added.
Tunisian groups call for anti-corruption strategy
In Tunisia, civil society groups used International Anti-Corruption Day to urge authorities to do more to battle bribery.
"There's a strong will to move ahead, but our capabilities are poor; we're only 11 people facing a mafia with too many capabilities that give them a chance to escape prosecution and punishment, said Hichem El Hammi, an aide to the anti-corruption minister, at last week's "Tunisia for Integrity Forum".
According to accountant Qais Bin Mahmoud, "these seminars, which are held behind closed doors and whose results don't reach the public, won't lead to spectacular results, in spite of the millions that are spent on them".
"Corruption has to be turned into a public opinion issue, and people must understand that contributing to the anti-corruption effort means good development and prosperity for them and their children," Bin Mahmoud told Magahrebia.
Tunisia ranked 77th in the world in the latest CPI, a slight drop from last year's report from Transparency International. TI said the decline was due to slow legislation and the political uncertainty.
Morocco launches a national survey on graft
Morocco placed 91st, falling three places compared to the 2012 edition. However, it retained the same rating, 37 points out of 100.
"As a responsible government, we must admit that our country has not achieved the desired results in the fight against corruption in comparison with other areas," Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane said on December 5th.
Faced with the slipping of Morocco in the Corruption Perceptions Index and harsh criticism by citizens, the Central Authority for the Prevention of Corruption (ICPC) will soon launch a national survey to grasp the reality of this scourge.
According to political analyst Jamal Farhani, the current government needs to redouble its efforts because it created hope without being able to put in place concrete measures to curb corruption.
"There were only declarations of intent. On the ground, neither ordinary citizens nor investors have felt a palpable change," he said.
Algeria sees slight improvement
While Algeria also scored poorly in the latest corruption rankings, the country's score improved slightly over last year.
"Algeria once again obtained, and it is not a surprise, a very bad score 36 out of 100 (34 out of 100 in 2012), " Algerian Association Against Corruption (AACC) chief Djillali Hadjadj said in a statement.
"The Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 for Algeria is the result not only of the lack of policy to fight against corruption, but more importantly confirms that corruption - large and small, in our country - is an instrument of power," the statement said.
Mauritania celebrates International Anti-Corruption Day
The fight against corruption in Mauritania also saw slight improvement last year. The country rose from the 123rd in the world to 119th.
Mauritanian Finance Minister Thiam Diombar said: "Bribery constitutes a threat to all humanity and has implications for industrialised countries, developing countries and the least developed as well."
In the framework of International Anti-Corruption Day, Mauritania's Ministry of Economic Affairs and Development, the United Nations Development Program, the Mauritanian Observatory to Combat Corruption, a team supporting access of women to elected offices and Insaf Association, organised several art and cultural evenings in Nouakchott and some inland cities.
"Bribery unfortunately still exists in various government facilities and this is what prevents progress at the level of development in this country," teacher Mohamed Ould Ibrahim told Magharebia.
Jamel Arfaoui in Tunis, Siham Ali in Rabat, Fidet Mansour in Algiers and Jemal Oumar in Nouakchott