Militarizing the state is another face of the corruption coin

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The Central Auditing Organization, one of the essential oversight bodies in Egypt, revealed legal and financial irregularities in the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint Major General Engineer Ehab Khedr as head of the National Authority for National Organization for Potable Water and Sanitary Drainage “NOPWASD”, including granting him a higher salary than prescribed for his job and granting himself privileges and material rewards in violation of the law.

It is not the first time that monitoring reports have revealed that former military personnel appointed to civilian government jobs committed financial and administrative violations and received bribes to conclude suspicious deals or cover up corruption. This denies the theory of “loyalty and competence of the army” promoted by the government to justify the increase in former military personnel in civilian positions.

Wholesale corruption

In its report for the year 2022, the Central Auditing Organization monitored that Major General Ihab Khadr’s job wage violates the provisions of the Civil Service Law promulgated by Law No. 81 of 2016, as he was granted a job wage higher than the wage stipulated in this law for the job he occupies at NOPWASD. And the Prime Minister, Dr Mostafa Madbouly, issued a decision in October 2019 appointing Khodr as Chairman of the Board of Directors of NOPWASD, at the excellent job level in the authority’s budget, for one year. This appointment was renewed for another two years by decision number: 2012 in 2020 and 2468 in 2021.

The report added that Khader also received fixed allowances and compensation during his previous work in the armed forces in his job at the authority, in violation of the provisions of the law, as “NOPWASD did not provide the Central Auditing Organization with evidence that the procedures prescribed by law were followed for transfer from the military position and that the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint him as Chairman of the Authority’s Board of Directors was received without a reference to his transfer from his military position or a reference to law No. (232) of 1959 regarding conditions of service and promotion for officers of the armed forces, and that the decision did not include a provision for keeping his previous wages for him. Hence, this position is a junior position.

The report notes that Khader granted himself an “encouraging bonus” in violation of the Civil Service Law, which prohibits “heads of government departments, agencies, and agencies from assigning benefits to them that fall within the competence of the higher authority according to the administrative hierarchy.” And the General Assembly of the Fatwa and Legislation Departments of the State Council issued a judicial fatwa supporting the validity of what came in the Central Accounting report regarding Khader. It confirmed that he was not entitled to keep the allowances and fixed compensations he received in his previous work in the armed forces, starting from his appointment to the authority. The legality of the decision issued by “Khidr” as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Authority is to grant himself an incentive bonus to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of NOPWASD for the fiscal year 2020/2021.

Theory versus practice

Many leaders of the armed forces assume civilian jobs after leaving the military service, especially the positions of governors, heads of neighbourhoods, public sector companies, and projects affiliated with the armed forces. For example, about 50 retired military personnel work in leadership positions in the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, which a former officer heads. Experts believe that the civilian job rewards these soldiers for their loyalty and ensures the army’s tight control over the administrative aspects of the state. While the government asserts that this military personnel are recognized competencies and that their mere affiliation with the army establishment means they are “clean hands” and administratively disciplined, they can tighten their control over where they work.

The reality belies the government’s claims. In addition to the case of Major General Khadr, over the past few years, much retired military personnel appointed by the government to civilian jobs have been arrested on charges of corruption, illicit profiteering, and taking bribes. It should be noted that the declared number of these cases is much less than the reality due to the government’s reservations about publishing such cases under the pretext of not distorting the image of the military establishment. For example, in April 2021, the Administrative Control Authority arrested Major General Hatem Zain al-Abidin, the First Undersecretary of the Ministry of Local Development and head of the city of Mahalla al-Kubra, after accusing him of several corruption cases and profiting from his job, as he agreed with some businessmen, contractors, and companies to assign some work. They have direct orders and facilitate the disbursement of dues to them without following the stipulated financial and legal procedures in return for obtaining bribes.

In November 2019, Major General Mohamed Zain El-Abidin, the former head of the Old Cairo neighbourhood, was arrested on charges of receiving a bribe of EGP 2m in exchange for condoning violations by a building contractor. Zine El Abidine was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In May 2018, the Administrative Control Authority arrested Major General Alaa Fahmy, head of the Holding Company for Food Industries, accusing him, along with others, of receiving a bribe of 2 million pounds from a food supply company in exchange for facilitating the procedures for assigning operations to supply food commodities to that company and agreeing to pay its financial dues arising from the supply. Fahmy received a 10-year prison sentence and a fine of 7,500,000 pounds.