World Bank study: COCA should be independent [Archives:2008/1182/Local News]

August 18 2008

Saddam Al-Ashmori
For The Yemen Times

SANA'A, Aug. 17 ) The World Bank recently stressed the necessity of the Central Organization for Control and Auditing, or COCA, and the Anti-Corruption Authority being fully and truly independent in their work, maintaining that their current supposed independence is merely ink on paper.

This came during a seminar regarding an “analytic review of the legal and legislative framework of anti-corruption in Yemen” organized by the Anti-Corruption Authority and conducted by the World Bank. Awren Aria, senior specialist in public sector management for the Middle East and North Africa, presented the WB study results.

Considered a form of technical assistance the World Bank offered to the Anti-Corruption Authority, the study involved basic studies of corruption affairs, a review and analysis of the legal and legislative frameworks concerned with combating corruption, as well as the institutional structure of anti-corruption authorities.

It seeks to put in place plans and mechanisms of the Anti-Corruption Authority, in addition to preparing a national strategy to combat corruption and build the capacity of the authority's personnel.

The study found that much Yemeni legislation related to combating corruption is inconsistent or is repeated in such a way causing overlapping of authorities on certain issues. Yemeni legislation widened the scope of the law to contain within its definition of a corrupt act other crimes with criminal characteristics.

Additionally, the WB study points out that COCA has no authority to take immediate legal action nor to report or complain about any acts that violate Public Prosecution or Anti-Corruption Authority laws.

Prior to this, COCA first must submit a report to the incumbent authority and then wait 30 days before filing its complaints with Public Prosecution, stressing that the law should be amended so that the monitoring apparatus informs the Anti-Corruption Authority just as it does with the Public Prosecution.

The WB study also notes that the budgets of the Anti-Corruption Authority and the monitoring apparatus should be wholly independent from the Ministry of Finance. “Although the law stipulates that COCA's budget is independent, it complains of Finance Ministry practices that aren't indicative of such independence, even regarding finances.”

The study further alleges that Yemen' finance minister deals with the apparatus as he deals with other authorities within the scope of executive bodies, rather than as independent bodies.

Further, based on the monitoring apparatus's own reports, it sees no reflections of its activities within the incumbent bodies, which take no action against those who commit violations and crimes.

Ahmed Al-Anisi, head of the Anti-Corruption Authority, says that the study prepared by two World Bank experts must be reviewed and examined thoroughly in order to come up with a better vision to activate the Anti-Corruption Authority's role and complement the other institutions involved in combating corruption in Yemen.

He notes that there's strong political will to combat corruption within the nation and eradicate its sources, pointing out that his authority realized many accomplishments during its first year of operation by promoting the authority's institutional capacity and coordinating with other concerned institutions.

Al-Anisi maintains that the authority has disclosed numerous corruption issues, with such corruption crimes being transferred to the judiciary while the authority still is investigating others.

However, he stressed that the mechanism of the authority's work should be reviewed in order to improve its performance and enable it to realize its planned targets.

The WB study further criticized the current situation of the Public Prosecution, which, according to the 2006 legal amendment, is considered part of judicial authorities, revealing that in this case, the Public Prosecution both accuses and investigates on one hand, while judging on the other.

Furthermore, Public Prosecution cannot be prosecuted itself because it is a judicial entity. Thus, the WB study stressed that Yemen's Public Prosecution should be part of the Justice Ministry in order to ensure the judicial system's absolute independence.

The republic's Presidential Office director Ali Al-Anisi commented that the World Bank study contains numerous shortcomings such as neglecting the role of other institutions involved in fighting corruption, including the republic's presidency, the Central Bank, the Customs and Tax Authorities and Political and National Security apparatuses.

In this regard, he pointed out that National Security has disclosed numerous corruption practices and transferred them to the Public Finance Prosecution.

He further criticized the WB study because Yemeni experts did not participate in its preparation, noting that their participation is important because the study is considered a nucleus for the preparation of a national strategy to combat corruption.