This Public debate focused on discussing the low rank of Palestine on the annual Corruption Perception Index which Transparency International issues as part of its activities regarding an international corruption status.
The 2005 Index has exceeded a total of 158, Palestine was ranked at 107. For the last three years, Palestine has had a low rating on the rankings. In an attempt to temporarily overcome this problem and for researching the matter, the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity - AMAN launched an imitative to drop the name of Palestine from the 2006 Index in an attempt to evaluate the index itself and to determine the extent of its application to Palestine and to look into the criteria adopted by Transparency International and to see whether these criteria are based on scientific systematic approach and methodology.
Cancelling the name of Palestine on a temporary basis requires follow up and submittal of Palestinian proposals to Transparency International. Therefore, The Arab Thought Forum (ATF) which is a member of AMAN Coalition has organized this meeting to provide an opportunity for the discussion and deliberation of the methodology used in the index and to look into the prospects of bringing about changes on the same line of the followed methodology.
Proceedings of the meeting:
Abdel Rahman Abu Arafeh, ATF General Director introduced Transparency International and International Corruption Perception Index which was initiated since 1995 and now comprises 158 states. He noted that Palestine joined the index since 2003 and it ranked 108, but in 2005 it ranked 107 and in 2003 the rank was 78. He also introduced the mechanisms and approaches followed by Transparency International in this Index; that aims at reaching a qualitative and descriptive diagnosis of the level of transparency in different countries. Transparency International stipulates that in order to access any country, it would have take at least three opinion polls out of 16 until it qualifies for the International Corruption Perception Index. Palestine was covered by three surveys which represent the minimum prerequisite for the ranking; 8 other countries out of 158 adopt the minimum prerequisite too. What is crucial is not only the better ranking of Palestine on the scale but what is more important is the ranking of Palestine in fair and appropriate manner.
Azmi Shu‘aibi stressed that opinion polls constitute one of the primary tools for study and diagnosis of the reality.
The adoption of opinion polls depends on a subjective aspect especially when the opinion poll addresses corruption in the public sector, security apparatus or even non-governmental institutions. Because opinions can be somewhat exaggerated and inaccurate, its results can be distorted. AMAN in this regard has implemented parallel studies to such opinion polls.
Transparency International indexes and the concepts upon which these indexes are built suffer from structural problems which are originally suited to western countries. They basically tackle issues relating to fighting bribery in large companies, nepotism and favoritism; such matters do not necessarily apply to non-western countries. Therefore, the polls accredited by Transparency International do not necessarily apply to third world countries including the Arab World. Hence, there is a need to nationalize and modify indexes in an attempt to create a group of Arab Indexes. Efforts towards a joint regional action for this goal ended in failure for several reasons.
It is essential to admit that there is corruption in Palestine but by the same token it should not be exaggerated. Its different manifestations have to be dealt with within their normal size and through prioritizing the manifestations of corruptions that need to be confronted in a non western setting starting with the different kinds of corruption, identification of its causes, parties harmed and benefiting from it, and ending with an identification of the most suitable mechanism to fighting it and specification of the indexes used at the national level to fight it.
1. Setting up of an index based on impressions and the extent of its accuracy.
2. The role of the basic element in creating a typical image regarding the large-scale corruption in Palestine especially the role of the Israeli government and western countries in this regard along with its extent and reality.
3. The existence of some questions and leading questions in the adopted questionnaires of Transparency International.
4. The existence of logical inconsistencies in the ranking of countries on the international corruption perception index along with certain kinds of unjustified gaps in the ranking and arrangement of the countries from one year to another.
5. The role of the political decision and the initial willingness to fight corruption and the impact of this on the role of the public prosecutor.
6. The existence of a state of confusion between the general perception of frustration which is spread sometimes in the midst of the public and relating it to corruption and the big difference between this perception and the reality of corruption itself.
7. Turning of a rumor into a fact and vice versa in the Palestinian setting and its impact on the Corruption Index without being supported by evidence, documentation or systematic approach.
8. The need to differentiate between issues within the framework of different international contexts and not considering them as ready-made (tailor-made) models that apply to different countries with the same content and interpretation.
9. The different manifestations of corruption are connected with cultural environment; in Palestinian society, which is a tribal society, the majority of corruption manifestations are linked with the tribe; they are flattery, favoritism and nepotism while other forms of corruption like bribery are non existent.
10. The existence of a systematic fault in the adopted Indexes of Transparency International in investment environment and views of businessmen that would necessarily have a negative impact on the Palestinian case since its investment environment is unstable and repellent.
11. The existence of a problem in non-western countries regarding the concepts of Transparency International namely definition, measurement and application. There is a need for clear indexes in order to isolate any biasness.
12. Corruption Perception Indexes measure and take into consideration some of the aspects influenced by the Israeli occupation like creating an environment in support of corruption by which Palestine becomes one of its victims.
13. The relationship of timing and approach of corruption reports on Palestine along with the political exploitation of these reports to reach to the conclusion that the Palestinian Authority is corrupt, terrorist and incapable of having an independent state.
14. Absence of agreement on a valid definition of corruption and its manifestations. Moreover, there is no agreement on prioritization of these manifestations and the level of their gravity. In addition, the elite only have access to this subject and it is not open to the public.
15. Diagnosis of Corruption and its manifestations in Palestine to see whether it is vertical or horizontal and both objective and subjective factors that influence it.
16. The responsibility of the Israeli side in creating a state of corruption in Palestine and how to reject accusations and direct them to the Israeli side.
17. The role of the General Control Bureau and the Department of Financial and Administrative Supervision Departments in fighting corruption and interfering in its indexes.
18. Role of mass media and their relationship with fighting corruption or creating impressions regarding its degree.
19. Role of Anti-Corruption Department in fighting corruption and the reasons for freezing it.
4. Recommendation and Follow-ups:
1. In cooperation with AMAN Coalition, the ATF has asked 3-4 basis parties (a small research party) to present a first draft of the list of indexes and their method of measurement depending on Palestinian priorities on condition that these parties are experts in the field. This was a preliminary step to submit this draft for discussion and analysis in order to be adopted in the final run.
2. It is essential to determine the framework that governs these indexes and method of measurement. I suggest that the following elements be included in the framework:
a. Palestinian consensus on a definition of corruption and its identification.
b. Consensus on a mechanism of measurement.
c. Consensus of how to analyze results and identification of approach of analysis.
d. Consensus on the system of reports (preparation process, what to include, what to measure and how; it should measure the extent of progress or delay happening to corruption indexes from one year to another with emphasis with emphasis on the cultural incubators of corruption and measurement of the degree of its decrease or strength.)
e. Consensus on the publication mechanism whether locally or internationally.
3. The need to conduct a scientific research to identify the extent of influence that these impressions and published reports on corruption in Palestine have on the whole Palestinian question whether negatively or positively especially regarding the political level and Israel’s role in particular in this regard.
4. Looking into the prospect of issuing a law by the Palestinian Legislative Council to provide protection to employees who report cases of corruption and how to reward them.
5. Activation and revival of Anti Corruption Department.
6. Formation of a committee to look into the reasons behind the low ranking of Palestine on the World Corruption Perception Index. It should also include representation from Financial and Administrative Supervision Department, Central Statistics Bureau, representative for each sector, representatives for parties and civil society.
7. The need to specify the purpose for putting forward these indexes and the sought after objectives resulting from the measurement process on condition that these indexes are distributed to each sector (governmental, legislative, private, nongovernmental organizations, security departments, etc..) This is an attempt to reach a certain specific model in each sector so that it would be easy to have its own indexes and thus facilitate the process of measurement in a manner that all generalities are avoided. Each sector or body has its own privacy. Through the different models to each sector including its indexes and method of measurement, it would be possible to reach the end result. For example if we take human rights, there should be indexes and scales to measure each right separately.