Media vital in fighting corruption,say workshop participants [Archives:2008/1122/Local News]

January 21 2008

SANA'A, Jan. 19 ) “The media must play a key role in fighting corruption,” agreed participants at a workshop organized Wednesday by Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC), in cooperation with the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).

Attended by Supreme National Anti-Corruption Authority (SNACA) Chairman Ahmad Al-Anisi, Yemeni Parliamentarians Against Corruption (Yemen PAC) Leader Sakhr Al-Wajeeh, who is also a Parliament member, and UN Anti-Corruption Program Director Majdi Holmi, an international expert in fighting corruption, the workshop also shed light on the principles of good governance.

At the event, Al-Anisi stressed the necessity of establishing partnership and coordinating efforts with civil community organizations for combating the rampant phenomenon in Yemen, highlighting the tasks and duties of his authority, which he feels receives lavish official, popular and international support. He confirmed that the authority received tens of administrative and financial corruption cases through joint cooperation with Parliament, the judiciary, media and private sector.

Responding to questions and inquiries raised by journalists about the achievements made by the authority since it was established, Al-Anisi said that his authority does not have “a magic stick”, meaning it is difficult for the newly established authority to do multiple tasks within a short time period, particularly as it started with no previous foundation and its powers are limited. “There will be corruption as long as man exists, but our primary task is to identify where it is prevalent,” he noted.

“Some corruption issues are difficult to judge on based on their complicated nature; however, the media can play a great role in diagnosing corruption and corrupt individuals,” Al-Anisi added.

Some of the workshop attendees questioned the lack of transparency regarding senior government officials' accountability. They cited the Aden Lands Report, presented by Minister of Higher Education & Scientific Research Dr. Saleh Basurrah to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, as an example of the lack of transparency in government procedures – no one knows what happened to the report after it was submitted to the relevant authorities.

They also uncovered the land confiscations in Hodeidah governorate, nuclear power scandal, as well as Marib electricity project handed over to a contractor by direct authorization without carrying out a bid, plus additional allocations to the government's budget.

Reacting to media criticism of the way such projects are implemented, Al-Anisi expressed that his authority operates according to the law of its establishment, adding that it never received the Aden lands file.

“We should not take this matter so easily, Sakhr Al-Wajeeh said, commenting on Al-Anisi's statements. “SNACA was given many powers and granted an independent budget. So it is entitled to follow up, observe and investigate any corruption cases published by the media.”

The MP recommended that SNACA staff should start investigating the corruption cases disclosed by Central Organization for Control and Audit recent reports. He presented a paper highlighting the roles of Parliament's and certain NGOs in fighting corruption.

Majdi Holmi said in a statement that journalists are partners in combating corruption while the government is needed to provide the necessary facilitations for NGOs to do their jobs in this regard.

A few minutes after the event began, WJWC Chairwoman Tawakul Karaman commented that discussions about fighting corruption and the availability of a political and administrative system in Yemen are merely for media consumption.