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Casting doubts over fight against corruption will only prove beneficial to corrupt, says Chahed

Published the:  21/07/2017

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(TAP) - "Casting doubts over the fight against corruption will only prove beneficial to the corrupt," The President of the Government Youssef Chahed said in response to deputies' questions.

"Notwithstanding differences over the government's policy in this war, there is a consensus on the need to move forward," he Thursday told MPs.

Commenting on accusations of involvement in corruption when he was secretary of state for fisheries, The President of the Government said the Ministry of Agriculture turned down, in accordance with the law on government transactions, a request by a firm that won a tender for 20 small boats to make them part of the Tunisian fleet.

The company lodged a complaint against the Minister of Agriculture and against him, as a secretary of state, though "he was not signing any transactions" before the public procurement authority and courts, The President of the Government said. The file was then closed on the grounds of lack of evidence.

The ruling handed down few days ago in connection to the Franco-Tunisian Bank did not include a fine contrary to allegations, Chahed said in another connection.

"This case, taken to international arbitration, dates back to 1982. The Tunisian State enlisted the services of lawyers from big law firms in Great Britain. The public opinion will familiarise with the case and the State will appeal the ruling if need be," The President of the Government indicated.

The recent string of arrests were made on the basis of the emergency law and legal procedures in force, Chahed said. Courts have been processing these cases and some arrest warrants were issued. Procedures were by no means administrative but rather judicial and were carried out in secrecy to make sure they bear fruit.

"With only two people brought to justice, 700 MTD in customs duties will be recovered under a court ruling," the Premier highlighted.

"The war on corruption is not and will not be selective; it does not target political opponents as some say; it serves the State's interests and is meant to increase its resources."

Customs is faced with a wide array of challenges and the government worked out to this end a four-year reform plan, Chahed said. Yet, the pace of reform is slow and efforts are on track to remedy this.

Efforts are also focused on the digitalisation of the administration and the simplification of procedures to help the State sue the corrupt in administrative operations, The President of the Government indicated.

The Financial Judiciary Pole was endowed with the necessary equipment and needs to be staffed; this is up to the Supreme Judicial Council, the Premier said. Headquarters will be made available as soon as possible.

Five hundred judges will be recruited over the next two years in spite of financial pressure and the increase in payroll. Likewise, the budget of the Justice Ministry will be increased in 2018 and working conditions improved.

"The government will exceptionally provide opportunities for hiring staff in 2018 for authorities involved in the fight against corruption," Chahed said.

There are multiple points of view when it comes to handling corruption; there may be shortcomings in the government's approach but then all beginnings are difficult, The President of the Government said.

This fight did not start on May 23 with the series of arrests but rather in August 2016 with the putting in place of a substantial body of legislation, including the whistleblower protection law, the National Anti-Corruption Authority and administrative reform measures.

War on corruption is "long" and its effectiveness cannot be assessed within four months. "The government seeks to see Tunisia feature in the mid-term in the top third of rankings of least corrupt countries," Chahed highlighted.

The government is ready "to cooperate with all those who can help in this battle, said the Premier. In this connection, he revealed that several MPs submitted corruption cases that were referred to courts.