King meets with national integrity committee

The Jordan Times
Publication date: 
Dec 09 2012

His Majesty King Abdullah on Sunday highlighted the importance of the mandate and role of the Royal Committee for Enhancing the National Integrity System in supporting the reform process in Jordan, adding that public confidence in state agencies is the catalyst for success in this effort.

Priority should be given to improving the performance of state agencies to increase citizens’ confidence in their ability to deter and fight corruption

Meeting with the committee’s president and members the day after their appointment, His Majesty said: “We are moving with vigour and optimism towards the future. Priority should be given to improving the performance of state agencies to increase citizens’ confidence in their ability to deter and fight corruption as a prerequisite to moving the country forward.”

The King called for expediting suspected corruption cases and bringing to justice those found guilty.

People’s concern over the phenomenon of corruption cannot be ignored or responded to by words rather than actions, King Abdullah said, stressing the vitality of the committee’s mandate and outcome. The panel, the King said, should come up with tangible results that reflect its seriousness in addressing graft.

His Majesty reiterated his support for the committee, which is heading towards carrying out a serious task to modernise and advance the national integrity system and build on previous achievements. He urged all concerned institutions to cooperate with the panel.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, president of the committee, voiced appreciation for the King’s step to form the panel to work on strengthening the integrity system in the Kingdom.

At the meeting, attended by Royal Court Chief Riyadh Abu Karaki and His Majesty’s Office Director Imad Fakhoury, Ensour announced a set of procedures to be taken immediately in response to the King’s directives as the committee embarks on its mission.

The government, Ensour said, will accelerate work on a bylaw setting the criteria for appointments in senior positions in the civil service, to ensure justice and deter wasta and favouritism. He added that the government will from now on be committed to due process regarding public tenders. He said a website is dedicated to announce all tenders, conditions, criteria and terms of reference.

According to Ensour, the procedures also include posting regular and unambiguous data related to all aspects of the state budget, including revenues and expenditures, in addition to the projects implemented by all the ministries and governmental institutions and related expenditures.

The prime minister added that ministries and other state agencies will announce all services they provide, ensuring clear and transparent criteria and procedures, in addition to specifying a clear mechanism for processing complaints.

The premier said the King’s directives for the committee addressed several aspects: strengthening the role of monitoring agencies, their legislative framework and their capabilities, including the Audit Bureau, Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Ombudsman Bureau. The Royal directives also addressed the need to reform the administrative and financial systems so as to prevent squandering of public funds. The effort necessitates maintaining transparency and accountability with regard to tenders, supplies and the budget.

The integrity system is aimed in enrooting institutional values and ethics in the public and private sectors, including justice, equality, rule of law, transparency and accountability.

Outlining other aspects of the integrity system, the premier said it seeks to set clear and transparent criteria for evaluating service delivery, and highlights the need for collaboration between the private and public sectors.

Ensour said the effort will not be handled solely by the government, but it is rather a national and public endeavour.

He pointed out that the work of the committee, based on the King’s directives, will result in a code on the basic principles and ethical and professional standards to regulate work in the public and private sectors, in addition to an executive plan to strengthen the integrity system and take it from the level of theory to implementation on the ground.

Ensour said the committee, based on the letter with which His Majesty established it, will open a dialogue with the civil society, including parties, associations, political forces and experts, and will hold a national conference submitting its recommendations to the upcoming government.

President of the Higher Judicial Council and committee member Hisham Al Tal said the panel is committed to implementing its mandate through various steps, including establishing special tribunals to fast track corruption cases and dedicating a number of specialised judges to focus on corruption cases.

Tal stated that the justice system in Jordan is mature, saying: “We will dedicate specialised judges to look into the claims swiftly,” reaffirming that “part of our professional and ethical duty is to prevent character assassinations and publication of the investigation before an announcement is due”.

Committee members said their tasks require them to start working immediately, and pointed out that they will work on engaging all segments of society, to benefit from their opinions and recommendations. Discussions will result in recommendations that will help the panel achieve its basic goal of strengthening the integrity system and fighting corruption wherever it exists.

Committee members said His Majesty’s letter was clear, and they will work as a team, in a way that reflects positively on institutional performance and capacity building. They pointed to the need to conduct a study of the overall situation in state agencies, including legislative, financial and administrative aspects. They said they will work on ending the overlapping of jurisdiction between state institutions and clarifying laws and regulations. They reaffirmed that Jordan is not a corrupt but a clean country and that they wanted to boost its integrity.

Committee members agreed that there is a gap between legislation and practices, and that there need to be standards and regulations to close this gap. They stressed that all work must be done in line with the law.

The King’s decision to form the committee was welcomed among grass-roots and civil society, members said. They stressed that holding a national conference to reach consensus over the output of the national integrity system will support political, economic and social life in the Kingdom, as it reflects a clear reform-oriented approach led by His Majesty.

Speaking to the Jordan News Agency, Petra, panel member Rajai Muasher said the committee was formed in line with the King’s efforts to boost citizens’ trust in the government, ensure transparency and set clear standards in all fields of public work to allow people to observe the way government operates.

Achieving such goals requires studying the duties of public monitoring bodies and finding the best formula to regulate their work and remove obstacles facing them, Muasher noted. He also said the committee’s recommendations will be the basis of an executive plan and a code that will be submitted to the national conference for discussion and endorsement.

Muasher added that the code will set the framework for ethical and professional work at institutions within the system of good governance, which will lead to further transparency and enhanced integrity.

Committee member Abla Abu Olbeh said the King’s letter establishing the committee responded to the demands of Jordanians regarding the anti-corruption fight. She added that drafting the code and the executive plan and endorsing them at a national conference will strengthen internal unity and national consensus, calling it an important stage in the Kingdom’s political life.

Abu Olbeh noted that the phenomenon of corruption must be addressed and prevented by amending relevant laws, indicating that the committee, which enjoys the King’s support, has large tasks ahead.

In a letter on Saturday, King Abdullah named Ensour as head of a committee to reinforce integrity, tasking it with reviewing laws, studying the situation of all monitoring agencies, diagnosing the problems these bodies face, identifying their weaknesses and suggesting recommendations to enhance work against corruption at these agencies and improve cooperation among them. The recommendations should suggest the best standards for balanced institutional work that entrenches justice, accountability and the best performance to achieve public interest.

Jordan ranked the third least corrupt among Arab countries in Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perception Index, outranked by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which tied in first place, and Bahrain.

Jordan has also maintained its international ranking among the best third of the 176 countries in the index, which is an achievement for the Kingdom in light of the difficult economic situation it is going through and the unrest in the region, especially that the country has limited resources, with lower per capita income than most Arab countries.