Corruption in Egypt: Rosy statements and a painful reality

Every year, with the commemoration of International Anti-Corruption Day, officials in Egypt come out to make statements about the anti-corruption strategy and the successes that people are promising while the citizen feels no change. Over the past years, al-Sisi and the staff of his regime have been talking about steps that have been taken in the context of fighting corruption, while the reality is that those who discover corruption and whistleblowers are arrested or removed from their posts.

According to experts, there is no serious evidence of the political will to fight a war on corruption, stressing that Egypt does not have a serious vision in the face of corruption. From time to time, confessions emerge from officials, headed by al-Sisi, that there is great corruption in state institutions. Still, after his confession, al-Sisi laughed and said, but tell me what I should do? Corruption and embezzlement of public funds are the most famous phenomena in corruption cases, which have been seized in recent years, involving ministers, heads of bodies and judges, which means that corruption has reached a dangerous degree.

Egypt has 12 oversight bodies, chief, sub-branch, and auxiliary, in which confronting corruption is its first concern, and the largest of these bodies is the Administrative Control Authority. Administrative oversight is an important security agency headed by a former military general and enjoys broad powers and strong support from President al-Sisi, in addition to the Central Auditing Organisation.

Corruption funds

For its part, Transparency International said that the problem in Egypt is not the lack of regulatory agencies or the lack of laws, but rather the problem of implementing laws that are selectively applied and on whom the regime wishes to imprison. Specialists give an example of anti-graft laws: There is a law prohibiting illicit enrichment from public office, which was issued in the seventies, but it is not implemented.

Al-Sisi’s regime deliberately turns a blind eye to private funds, which are considered a major hotbed of corruption in Egypt. Despite recognition of its seriousness and the insistence on disclosing its budget, authorities have not yet done anything about it. These funds, which are characteristic of Egypt, are parallel budgets that are not subject to any oversight because they are outside the general state budget. The Administrative Control Authority recognises that these funds create fertile grounds for corruption crimes.

According to the law, it is authorised for any official (starting with the President of the Republic and ending with village councils’ heads) to create a special fund in which the money for fees imposed on citizens is placed. Private funds and the money deposited in them are not subject to their accounts and sources of spending or distribution of their funds to any account, and the system refuses to disclose their budget or include it in the state’s general budget.

According to experts’ estimates, the amount of money deposited in these funds is unknown, and it may reach EGP one trillion. In addition to the private funds, al-Sisi has started to intensively establish sovereign funds over the past several years. No one knows anything about their funds, and parliament cannot monitor them, such as the Long Live Egypt Fund. The Egyptian army’s budget, investments, and companies are joined to the hotbeds of corruption, which human rights organisations assert are not subject to any oversight and have always been an outlet for looting and profiteering from the army and intelligence generals.

Corruption fighters arrested

It was interesting to note that in light of the rosy statements about fighting corruption in Egypt, the authorities are pursuing corruption fighters and arresting them on charges of spreading false statements, instead of investigating the facts. In 2015, Counselor Hesham Geneina, head of the Central Auditing Organisation at the time, revealed many incidents of corruption in the state apparatus, and the size of corruption was estimated at EGP 600 billion within three years only.

Geneina was subsequently subjected to a fierce media campaign from al-Sisi’s regime, in addition to criminals beating him and attempting to kill him. The assailants were later acquitted of the charges. Instead of the authorities investigating the terrifying figure that Geneina revealed about the size of the corruption bill in Egypt, al-Sisi issued legislation allowing him to dismiss the heads of independent bodies and regulatory agencies so that he could isolate Geneina.

Indeed, in March 2016, Al-Sisi relieved Geneina of his post, replacing him with the head of the Supreme State Security Prosecution Office, the notorious Hesham Badawi. This was followed by a court ruling banning Geneina from travelling abroad and trying him on charges of spreading false statements. The court sentenced him to one year in prison in addition to five years imprisonment in another military trial.