Does more need to be done to combat corruption in Jordan?
Measures to protect public funds and assets from misuse in Jordan are still not as effective as they should be, according to the Kingdom’s chief auditor, who called for granting the Audit Bureau wider authorities to combat corruption in government agencies with efficiency.
Audit Bureau President Mustafa Barari called for amending the law governing his entity’s jurisdiction to grant the bureau the status of a law enforcement agency with the power to refer suspected fraud and corruption cases directly to the judiciary.
“By giving the bureau the authority to refer violations to courts directly, corruption could be reduced to much lower levels,” he added, saying the bureau also issues early warnings to decision makers on issues like public debt, budget deficit and tax reform.
Unfortunately, Barari said, such recommendations are not usually taken into account.
He made the remarks at a lecture hosted by Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organisation late last week on the role of the Audit Bureau in fighting corruption.
He noted failure to observe laws and regulations at public sector agencies have become the rule rather than the exception.
He indicated that his agency restored around JD351 million from cases of abuse of public funds during 2011 and the first nine months of this year, pointing out that the bureau is also seeking to monitor the administrative and financial performance of companies where the government owns at least 25 per cent of their stakes, a percentage that stands now at 50 per cent.
Barari noted that the bureau alone cannot fight corruption in the public sector, saying administrative corruption and abuse of public office is more serious and damaging than financial corruption.
Corruption hurts the country’s investment climate as well as the political system, he emphasised, pointing out that slogans of the majority of protests in the Kingdom are about corruption.
As examples of administrative corruption, he cited what he called a "prestigious" independent institution in charge of economic development he had visited more than a year ago where the education qualifications for the majority of the staff who receive relatively high salaries were irrelevant to the field of the agency’s business.
“I was shocked when the employees told me about their education degrees,” Barari told an audience of around 100 people.
He attributed the decline in government agencies' performance to bureaucracy and that employees do not comply with the code of ethics of their jobs.
Recruitments of inefficient and unqualified people at government agencies is another form of corruption, according to Barari, who explained that it has become almost a norm in Jordan that when officials assume government posts they should hire their relatives in public institutions.
In a bid to enhance productivity at public organisations, Barari said there is a need to boost good governance, accountability and transparency and improve cooperation between agencies in charge of monitoring government departments.
On financial violations, he pointed out that the Audit Bureau staff have registered 4,875 violations related to the use of government vehicles since the beginning of the year.
Noting that the fleet of government vehicles includes around 20,000 cars, the auditor cited examples of using these vehicles against regulations such as using them to take the families of officials to luxurious trips and weddings.
He claimed that a government-owned car was once used to drive the family dog around Amman to have fresh air.
“Abuse of public funds has reached critical levels that should be addressed,” Barari warned.
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