The National Authority for Protection of Public Funds (NAPPF) asked parliament president Abdelwahed Radi in a letter to “establish a national independent authority for truth and recovering misappropriated public funds” and to “set up a national system that would evaluate public auditing accounts policy.”
The letter was backed by a petition signed by more than a million citizens. It asks for corruption to be considered “a crime against humanity” and for ratification of the international convention to fight corruption.
The loss through corruption can be gigantic, reports show. An estimated 11.5 billion euros (14.4 billion dollars) from the Moroccan National Health and Pensions Organisation (CNSS after its name in French) has been misappropriated, a parliament investigation committee has reported.
The NAPPF says that this money that was taken from just ten public establishments could lead to employment for four million people in this North African nation of 33 million, and help build several schools and hospitals.
Misappropriating public funds was rampant during the rule of King Hassan II and his interior minister Driss Basri before the present King Mohamed VI took over in July 1999.
Abdelmoughit Slimani, Driss Basri’s brother-in-law and former mayor of Casablanca is now in the local Oukacha prison. Slimani and 18 others are accused of misappropriating more than 1.5 million euros (1.9 million dollars). Slimani’s associates in prison include Abdelaziz Laafoura, former governor of Ain Sbaa in Casablanca.
According to a report by investigating magistrate Jamal Serhane of which IPS has a copy, Slimani and the others used two housing projects as a cover to helping themselves to public funds. This money is said to have been used by Driss Basri and Slimani to build a luxurious hotel in Agadir, a tourist city 500 km south of Casablanca.
The 500-page report says Swiss building contractor Jean Victor Lovat had accused Slimani and other defendants of leading him to bankruptcy by fiddling public works contracts. Police investigation later revealed that public funds were stolen in several other contracts. But only a few of those responsible have been caught.
“Misappropriating public funds in Morocco has a hidden face: remaining unpunished,” Naji.M, a searcher in social sciences specialising in local authorities told IPS.
The roots of such corruption lie deep. During the 1970s and the 1980s, the Moroccan political regime faced a strong left-wing movement that drew its inspiration from the former Soviet Union and similar regimes. Socialism was ‘in fashion’ at the time, and the Moroccan regime created a bourgeoisie class to defend what the regime considered “democracy” and “liberalism”.
Many new political parties were created as a result for elections held in 1976 and 1983. These parties were believed to have been masterminded by Basri. Several of the people he brought into these parties went on trial later for misuse of public funds.
The officials were rarely punished during Driss Basri’s time. “Even if an official was clearly involved in misappropriating public funds, he was simply moved to another post where he could easily go on doing the same thing,” said Naji.M. “Some who were small civil servants became big businessmen.”
Corruption in public funds has a strong effect on the daily life of Moroccans. The country ranks 125th in human development, and this low position is due in great measure to misappropriated public funds.
King Mohamed VI has now announced a new National Initiative for Human Development. Inter Press Service