Yemeni parliamentarians take on corruption [Archives:2006/1007/Local News]

December 14 2006

Mahmoud Al-Harazi
For Yemen Times

SANA'A, Dec. 9 ) Bribery, money laundering, wasting public funds, illegal enrichment, conflicting interests, abusing power and funding election campaigns are just some corruption crimes in Yemen, a country that has judicial accountability, according to Ali Hussein Al-Ashal, a member of the Yemeni Parliament's Oil and Development Committee.

Al-Ashal was speaking at a conference hosted by the Sana'a-based Yemen Parliamentarians Against Corruption and they were marking worldwide Anti-Corruption Day.

“The Yemeni Parliament must be given a large role in fighting corruption,” said Al-Ashal. “The corruption law granted members of Parliament several important rights, such as the right to question the prime minister, his vice president and ministers on any matter, thereby strengthening the role of parliamentary members and their role as overseers of anti-corruption.”

Highlighting that Parliament successfully has addressed a few corruption cases, Al-Ashal noted that it failed in many others due to reasons related to MPs themselves and Parliament's council.

Yemen Parliamentarians Against Corruption commended the assistance of the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation in fighting corruption.

“I hope this cooperation will continue with the ministry and all official sections to mobilize efforts and achieve common objectives between our organization and the government to fight corruption and reduce its risks and adverse effects,” said Yemen Parliamentarians Against Corruption Chairman Sakhr Ahmed Al-Wajeeh.

The group has established a draft anti-corruption law consisting of 47 articles, which has been approved by Parliament and is awaiting approval and ratification by President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Yemen Parliamentarians Against Corruption will cooperate with the Yemeni government and members of Parliament to enrich the law regarding bidding projects submitted by the government to Parliament's council. There also will be several workshops and seminars aimed at raising public awareness about the dangers of corruption and seeking ways to combat it.

“The government has made a good effort to identify corruption and the weaknesses leading to it. The best example of this is developing the national reform agenda, which led to many reforms involving corruption cases wherein numerous laws and resolutions were adopted in order to limit the phenomenon,” said Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Abdulkarim Al-Arhabi. “It's not important simply to pass laws, but rather how to implement them.”

A good example of this is the Yemeni government's implementation of laws against corruption, which was accomplished in the Ministry of Civil Service.

“The first time in Yemeni history when judges were separated and questioned is an indicator of the nation's seriousness to fight corruption,” Al-Arhabi noted.

He says anti-corruption is everybody's business – the government, civil society and citizens – therefore, “we must work together to fight corruption.”

It's part of their fight against corruption

“Corruption is like a cancer that can't be allowed to be spread in the community because it wreaks much damage, so the phenomenon must be gotten rid of and prevented by all means. If measures aren't taken to prevent this phenomenon, communities will be unable to continue living. For this reason, I am here.” said Flavia Pansieri, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Yemen Yemeni.

Preparing the national agenda for reforms discussed with the government, as well as the existence of the Central Organization for Control and Audit, are important factors in fighting corruption. The existence of judicial and executive power and the different seats also are as important as finding the means to fight corruption, which was rededicated in the Anti-Corruption Law in Parliament's council.

Addressing the attendees, Pansieri, noted, “Your role as parliamentarians is very important because you represent the citizens who elected you. You have responsibilities toward them so that the nation's resources are spent in good ways. You also have responsibilities to become pacesetters in your conduct and orientations.”

Only discussing an awaited financial disclosure and a draft law to combat corruption doesn't meet the required level, according to Jalal Yakoub, the ministry of planning undersecretary.

“We've been trying to clarify the government bidding system since February 2006. We had an important cabinet reshuffle that was able to improve political support for reforms into practical steps and good results. Thus, the agenda began to move, issuing the Financial Disclosure Law, as well as the Anti-Corruption Law,”said Yakoub.

The largest national awareness campaign was implemented about the risks of corruption in Yemen.

“The Supreme Judiciary Council referred some judges and prosecutors for retirement and others for legal accountability and rescinding their immunity” Yakoub said.

Under the anti-corruption laws, Yakoub noted that there is a difference between the past and today and he expects an advanced future for Yemen.