By Siham Ali
By Siham Ali
Rabat, July 3, 2012
The salaries of senior government officials are at the centre of a political firestorm in Morocco, after a Justice and Development Party (PJD) deputy accused a former minister of receiving hefty sums “under the table”.
Abdelaziz Aftati’s claim during a June 11th parliamentary session that former Economy and Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar had pocketed a monthly bonus of 400,000 dirhams drew the ire of deputies and triggered a nationwide debate on senior officials’ wages.
The former minister admitted that he earned a monthly bonus of 80,000 dirhams but said that he did so legally, like more than 18,000 other civil servants.
Two days later, Arabic-language newspaper Akhbar Al Yaoum published documents confirming the bonus, as well as the chief treasurer’s 100,000-dirham monthly allowance approved by Mezouar.
Mezouar acknowledged that the amounts were accurate but stressed that it is standard practice to reward civil servants when they work particularly hard. His party, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), accused the government of seeking to deflect attention from the controversy over the rise in fuel prices.
Meanwhile, calls mounted for the government to look into the matter. The subject was broached at the June 14th cabinet meeting. Communications Minister and government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi said that the government intends to break with old practices.
He announced that it is holding talks with the biggest trade unions to hammer out a new allowance system for the economy and finance ministry based on the principles of transparency, justice, fairness and merit. A technical committee will take responsibility for this issue.
Over the last three months, the Court of Auditors has been carrying out an audit on the Ministry of the Economy and Finance, including its special accounts.
El Khalfi told journalists that since the new government was appointed, the minister of the economy and finance and the chief treasurer have waived all allowances not covered by the decree that sets ministers’ allowances.
Nizar Baraka, the current Minister of the Economy and Finance, says that the finance minister should not claim bonuses granted to civil servants, especially since he is the one who decides the list of recipients in accordance with the law.
Baraka says that there must be commitment to “laying the foundations of good governance and the campaign against the misappropriation of public funds and rents”.
Members of the public are angry about the affair.
“How can they advocate the need to cut spending and give staggering amounts to the minister and senior civil servants at the same time? Bonuses should be offered as a way of motivating workers, but the amounts given should be reasonable,” student Noureddine Salmi told Magharebia.