Crooks and grafters beware: Tunisia's crowd mapping corruption

Published April 21st, 2013 - 10:33 GMT
Protestors in Tunisia held anti-corruption demonstrations in 2010 (AFP)
Protestors in Tunisia held anti-corruption demonstrations in 2010 (AFP)

Tunisia's "I Watch" organisation on Saturday (April 13th) launched a new online "crowd-map" for reporting cases of corruption.

The name chosen for the site is "Billkamcha", a slang term for a person "caught in the act". Just 48 hours after the site went live, it already collected 7,000 supporters.

"This interactive website is designed to enable the victims of corruption to immediately report what happened to them whether this corruption is financial, administrative or in the form of favouritism," I-Watch Tunisia President Achraf Aouadi explained at the event launch.

According to Aouadi, the site allows whistleblowers to remain anonymous while helping them to seek justice. "If they refuse this option, we offer to apply pressure on the media in order to uncover corruption and corrupt individuals," he said.

"Control of corruption in Tunisia requires the efforts of everyone and the role of civil society is necessary and inevitable," Taoufik Chammari, president of the National Anti-corruption Network, told Magharebia.

"We have to go to the people and reinforce the concept of anti-corruption in them and show them all methods and techniques used by corrupt people," he added.

Imed Ben Khemisa, a former member of the national commission investigating corruption and embezzlement, also praised the project.

"Personally I find the idea really good, fruitful and meaningful for our country," he told Magharebia.

He explained that his committee's work after the revolution "resulted in the transfer of more than four hundred cases to the public prosecutor after review of more than five thousand".

For her part, Salma ben Jemii, a bank executive said, "Such a site will encourage hesitant people and those who fear administrative prosecution on charges of disclosing trade secrets to reveal what is going on around them in terms of tampering with public money, especially with regard to public banks."

Tunisia's rating in the annual Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International fell from 59th in 2010 to 75th in 2012.

During the World Social Forum hosted by Tunisia last month, Farid Farid, media co-ordinator for the Middle East at Transparency International, said that the most important factors that led to the worsening corruption were "acceptance by society of bribery and toleration of it, as well as the failure of regulatory institutions, the non-activation of laws and the lack of transparency and good governance in institutions".

The latest opinion poll carried out by the Tunisian Centre for Corporate Governance published in September 2011 indicated a level of corruption in the police sector reaching 72 per cent, 70 per cent within political parties, 57 per cent in customs and 57 per cent in the transitional government, 40 per cent of lawyers and 39 per cent of judges.

I Watch was created in March 2011 as a local non-profit watchdog with two main objectives: transparency and fighting corruption.

"It is the duty of citizens to exercise caution and avoid selfishness when seeking help without falling victim to corrupt individuals," commented Hatem Omri, a human rights activist. "We have to condemn the briber and the bribed. It is then that we can talk about beginning to eliminate corruption."

In February of last year, Abderrahmen Ladgham, the minister for governance and combatting corruption, said that a third of Tunisians were involved in cases of corruption at least once in their lives.

"According to statistics available to us, 90 per cent of Tunisians consider corruption a crime yet we find that one person out of three either accepted a bribe or paid it," he said.

I Watch will co-ordinate with a number of lawyers to process the files that it has begun to receive. The site has a team of six active members in charge of receiving complaints and reports relating to corruption. It will also depend on ten bloggers whose mission is to expose and detect cases of corruption received by the site.

© Magharebia. All rights reserved.

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