Under the aegis of political party Wafa Movement, a pact for governmental accountability was signed on Sunday, January 13, by 46 organizations and 18 parties. The pact includes recommendations to strengthen anti-corruption efforts and calls for the creation of a national accountability board.
Representatives of the signatories to the pact held a press conference yesterday to discuss the accountability measures within the document. In statements to the press, Mondher Ben Ahmed, a Wafa Movement member, referred to eight specific recommendations in the pact, which include the protection of whistleblowers by the legal system and extensive coverage by the media of the board’s work to ensure transparency.
The National Constituent Assembly will be presented with the proposal to create the national accountability board within a week’s time.
If adopted, it would be divided into different sectorial and regional committees and composed of the pact signatories. There is still a window of opportunity for other organizations and parties to sign onto the pact. Only former members of the ousted regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali would be forbidden from participating in the national accountability board, and hindering the work of the board would be criminalized.
The board would cover corruption files from March 20, 1956 – the period of Habib Bourguiba’s presidency – until the present day.
During the press conference, the signatories explained that corruption did not end during the post-Ben Ali political transition. Slim Boukhthir, Wafa Movement spokesperson, in particular claimed that there exists evidence of the current interim government and the previous transitional government of Beji Caid Essebsi destroying corruption files.
Essebsi, ex-prime minister in the prior transitional government, denied the accusations on Tunisian radio Mosaique FM today and stated that the transitional government under him, which only spent seven months in power, “never set foot” in the presidential palace of Carthage. He pointed out that the current interim government has been in power for twice the time he spent in office. Therefore, it holds responsibility, he argued, if some corruption files are missing.
The interim prime minister’s office was not available for comment to Tunisia Live.
The creation of a national accountability board is viewed by some as a response to what they perceive as the failures of the current High Commission for the Fight Against Corruption.
Abderraouf Ayadi, secretary general of Wafa Movement, said to Tunisia Live that the anti-corruption body in question has not done its job nor has it prosecuted cases of corruption.
The commission is an independent body, established by the interim government to replace the previous National Truth Commission in November 2011. It is headed by a legal expert, who is nominated by the government, and is supposed to have no more than 30 members.
Ayadi criticized the commission as a body “with a leader but no members” since the current government did not announce the composition of its members.
Although there is a shortage in staff, the commission is nevertheless functional, stated Samir Annabi, head of the commission, to Tunisia Live.
The duties of the commission are misunderstood, he asserted. The duties of “combatting corruption” and “accountability” are distinct, Annabi pointed out, since the former entails taking preventative measures against corruption while the latter only addresses past cases.
“Our role is not about prosecution, it rather is about preparing a favorable ground for judges.”
The commission is studying 8,000 files and decides whether they deserve to be relooked or taken to the judiciary.
“If we were investigative judges, you could blame us, but fact-finding is not investigation. We do preliminary research, a broad look that is not judicial in nature,” Annabi said.
In response to the posible establishment of a national accountability board, he said, “We welcome all anti-[corruption] initiatives as long as they aren’t politically motivated.”