24 February 2014

Morocco Corruption Threatens Development

Rabat — Corruption is deeply entrenched in Moroccan society, experts from the Council of Europe (COE) said in Rabat.

It is difficult to assess the full extent of the problem because of the lack of statistical data. But because Moroccan citizens see corruption as reaching all aspects of life, it poses a threat to economic, social and political development, the report noted.

The kingdom needs to increase its ability to detect links between money laundering and corruption, the council said on Wednesday (February 19th).

"Apart from some internal initiatives in some public institutions, there is not to date a national policy to fight against corruption, based on a medium to long term strategy, with clearly-defined human, financial and logistical objectives," the COE said.

"The lack of a proactive approach in investigations... is among the reasons for the very low number of convictions," the report continued.

Among the Council's suggestions: employees should receive training to help them detect and report money laundering and corruption more easily; a special office should manage seized assets and ensure that they are handled in a public way, and gifts (except those required by protocol) to public servants should be banned.

Citizens agree with the COE that Morocco needs to tackle the problem.

Hamid Zaari, a student, says the fight against corruption and money-laundering will not be won by words and expressions of good will, but requires real action on the ground.

"I've witnessed acts of corruption on several occasions: getting treatment in hospital, getting documents issued by the authorities," he says "The law must be applied to all those who resort to corruption. People mustn't be allowed to get away with it anymore," he adds.

Zahra Mechouari, an accountant, says the time has come to tighten the noose around all those who use corruption. But that is not enough. She says that the public needs to be made aware of the dangers of corruption and its negative effects.

"Some people have got into the habit of handing over money to exercise a right or receive a service. On several occasions, I've been asked implicitly - and particularly by local authorities - to hand over little gifts to help my paperwork get dealt with quickly. I've always refused. But most people give in to pressure," she says.

Afaf Masmoudi, a teacher, says that even if legislation is introduced, it will not work unless attitudes change.

"There's a sort of general acceptance of corruption. People need to be made more aware of the issue so that they can speak out against the fraudsters," she says.

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