By Sami Zaptia.
London, 7 September 2020:
As part of the anti-corruption drive launched by Faiez Serraj, Prime Minister of the internationally recognized Tripoli-based Libyan government, Libya’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) discussed last week activating the ‘‘Financial Disclosure’’ declarations for government employees.
Financial Disclosure declarations are official declaration forms completed by state employees listing all their wealth and assets. They are supposed to make it easier to identify corruption by state employees whilst in office.
The discussion with the Serraj government centred around which groups of government employees will be targeted first and dates for presentation of their declarations.
The meeting, which was also attended by representatives of the Audit Bureau and the Administrative Control Authority (ACA), concluded that some of the procedures needed to be amended to enhance the work of identifying the first stage target groups and the dates of receipt of declarations.
This meeting comes against the backdrop of a national public outcry against perceived rampant corruption in Libya’s state sector which partly fuelled some of the ”23 August Movement” (Harak 23 August) protests. The protests led to the arrest of demonstrators and the shooting at protestors by government-recognized forces in Tripoli.
At least one shooter has been arrested and 13 out of the 21 arrested protestors have since been released. The protests and shootings also led to the temporary suspension by Serraj of his Interior Minister, Fathi Bashagha, and to a series of Serraj government decrees.
Financial Disclosure Declarations were actually introduced by Qaddafi as a stick to wave at his very corrupt state officials. No official was ever taken to court or imprisoned as a result of them. They were a political charade to threaten his bureaucratic cadres into staying loyal and silent about even bigger political and financial state corruption, especially by Qaddafi’s closest cronies
It is unclear whether Serraj is serious about fighting corruption in Libya. He has waited over five years to do so, which is in itself telling. It may be just posturing and putting on a show to reduce the public disquiet and the internal fissures amongst the ruling western Libyan elite, including its militias. It may buy him time, but unless some suspects are at least presented to court, the whole affair will be just another red herring.
Since the external enemy, Hafter, has been pushed afar to the Sirte-Jufra unofficial ceasefire line, the stakeholders in Tripoli have once again started to turn on each other. Bashagha’s suspension, trip to Turkey, glorifying airport reception and his hailing by his loyal forces after Serraj was forced to reinstate him – are all cases in point.
Ultimately, the Skhirat-appointed Serraj government and its West Libya allies lack any domestic legitimacy and accountability with Libya’s political split meaning that its parliament is equally split and redundant.
The failure to control the runaway Coronavirus outbreak despite spending LD 500 million (compared to Tunisia’s miniscule budget) had started a finger-pointing round robin.
The Presidency Council had turned on each other as they object to Serraj’s unilateral rule. The continued ineffectiveness and simmering public anger at rising coronavirus cases, power, petrol, diesel, cooking gas, cash, and water shortages, has meant everyone is trying to avoid taking blame and attempting to apportion blame on others.
Meanwhile, western Libyan militias continue to jostle for more power, positions, and remuneration in compensation for their ‘‘victory’’, as they see it, of keeping Hafter out of Tripoli.
The problem is the three state entities that are charged with oversight of the state bureaucracy – are themselves state bureaucracies. Bureaucracies are bureaucracies and are not best suited to overseeing or purging their fellow bureaucrats. In effect there is a silent and unspoken conspiracy by Libya’s bureaucracy against the public.
They make noise and play at reform, oversight, investigations, accountability, and justice – but in reality, there is no real incentive for them to do so. More importantly, there is much disincentive for Libyan bureaucracies to expose one another – as they all have skeletons in their cupboards. They all feed off the rentier state system and are not interested in rocking the boat or bringing the whole corrupt edifice crashing down.
Ultimately, they are not technically accountable to the executive government of Serraj, but to the now redundant and split parliament. Like most of Libya’s bodies since the redundant 2015 Skhirat Libyan Political Agreement, they operate in a void without any accountability and without the fear of being sacked – enjoy total impunity.
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