If corruption materialised as a man, I would kill that man. Corruption is the fierce enemy that permeates our society, devouring our resources. It works in the dark to destroy our lives. Corruption is the incurable disease that is rampant in the body of society, to blight and exhaust it.
Corruption was mentioned in the Qur’an several times, including in the following verse: “So why were there not among the generations before you those of enduring discrimination forbidding corruption on earth – except a few of those We saved from among them? But those who wronged pursued what luxury they were given therein, and they were criminals.” (Surah Hud 116)
We are commanded to fight corruption. The state and its executive arm are responsible for fighting corruption through imposing ruling frameworks and appropriate measures to detect and combat, as well issuing quick rulings in corruption cases.
Transparency International (TI) has chosen a clear and concise definition of the term: “Corruption is defined practically as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” TI further differentiates between “according to rule” corruption and “against the rule” corruption.
The Egyptian Penal Code does not define the crime of corruption. Rather, it limits it to the concept of bribery in Article 103 bis, where it defines bribery as: every public official seeks for himself, or someone else, accepted, or given promise or gifts to do a job that could be wrong, or claims it is part of their work or abstain it. I believe that the scope of corruption is greater than be limited to one crime such as bribery.
In general, corruption is divided into two groups: Corruption of those in power, and corruption among the people and the lower-income segments.
Corruption among those in power is linked to officials at the top of the social and political hierarchy, whether in the executive authority, the legislative authority or in the security apparatus.
Corruption among citizens is also widespread in Egypt, for many reasons, including the policies of impoverishment that have been practiced by governments across the different eras, the widening gap in income, the rising prices without state intervention to curb the hikes and merchants’ greed. Other factors include the absence of role models among officials and individuals and the weakness of the state’s control agencies.
There are several areas of corruption in Egypt, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Government procurement
- The division and sale of land and real estate
- Taxes and customs collection
- Local government departments
- The construction sector and the allocation of land, apartments, and infrastructure of new cities
- Evaluation of assets, property and land owned by the business sector
- Foreign currency trading and speculation on exchange rates
- The press and its institutions, and corrupting journalists through various means
- Maintaining the corruption of the public health system in order to provide opportunities for the expansion of investment hospitals
- Keeping the government education system ineffective for the benefit of the informal education system or an “educational black-market”, such as private tutoring and special foreign schools
Corruption among the low-income segments, which is known as employee corruption, takes the form of gratuities and unofficial payments. For example, providing medical services to patients in public and government hospitals often occurs through mediation and payments to obtain the absolute minimal level of service. Health officials have acknowledged the low level of service in public hospitals and say it is inhumane. There are also more than 627 governmental services provided by government employees who are paid allowing salaries, creating a low threshold for bribery and gratuities.
It is impossible to eliminate corruption in a few years. The evidence for this is the stasis in Egypt over the course of two revolutions. Worse, I believe the situation is going south, unless the government takes actual steps to combat corruption, separate from forming useless committees and issuing reports to fill drawers.
The following proposals may be useful to implement and include in a national project that would be of the same status as the New Suez Canal:
- Reconcilement of laws and eliminating duplicated or conflicting regulations to reduce obstacles that hinder doing business to eliminate the reasons for corruption
- Passing a freedom of information law
- Supporting transparency as a basis for contracting and government procurement to ensure integrity and fair competition
- Integrating the informal sector into the formal economy by reducing the obstacles that prevent the establishment of companies and the maintaining of businesses
- Simplifying tax laws in order to restrict the use of personal discretion in imposing taxes, and reducing tax evasion by slashing tax rates
- Reforming the public sector through granting government employees’ sufficient salaries that meet their needs to cut down on bribes in addition to preparing serious labour norms and standards to monitor performance
- Setting clear rules to govern potential conflicts of interest
- Standardisation of accounting and auditing standards
- Involving civil society in the fight against corruption
Hany Aboul Fotouh is a banking expert and the Chairman of Alraya Consulting Company.