Moroccan MPs oppose a bill criminalizing corruption in high political office and MPs’ “illicit” use of public money, a move set to yet again earn them harsh public criticism.
Rabat – Moroccan MPs sitting on parliament’s Justice and Legislation Committee have blocked a bill seeking to introduce in the penal code clauses on the “criminalization” of MPs’ “illicit enrichment.”
In defense of their opposition to the proposed changes, MPs argued that their position is due to the “ambiguity” of the proposal as well as the risk of “future political instrumentalization” by the government or a ruling political party to silence critical or dissenting opposition MPs.
The proposal was first introduced to parliament four years ago by the country’s ruling Party of Justice and Development (PJD), as it looked to deliver on some of its campaign promises regarding the fight against the country’s high corruption level.
Saad Eddine El Othmani, Morocco’s head of government and leader of the PJD, is on record vowing to curb the country’s crippling corruption level in the highest echelons of political office.
In summer 2018, El Othmani alarmingly said that Morocco annually loses 7% of its GDP to heightened corruption and mismanagement of public resources.
He reiterated that position earlier this year, stating that one crucial reason why corruption remains high in Morocco is that “those who perform their work the best they could receive minimum wages, while those who do not work enough receive wages above their effort.”
“A public official whose wealth sensibly and unjustifiably rises far above his or her declared worth when taking office shall be considered as having illicitly enriched themselves,” stipulates the in-question proposal. “If found guilty, the person risks 2 months to 2 years in prison as well as a fine ranging between Mad 5,000 and MAD 50,000. And should a court so rules, the person’s assets shall be seized in accordance with Article 42 of the penal code,”
As he re-introduced the anti-illicit enrichment bill on Friday, December 28, Mustapha Ramid, a senior PJD member and Morocco’s minister of human rights, said he was “puzzled and intrigued” by MPs ’refusal to support a proposal that would contribute to setting the much-needed effective mechanism to track and punish corruption and any “illicit” usage of public resources, le 360 recently reported.
In response, Abdellatif Ouahbi, an MP from the opposition Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), said that MPs are not opposed to the widely acknowledged need to tackle corruption. He argued that, because a parliamentary adoption of the proposed bill could be used by the government to get rid of critical MPs, the best course of action would be to have the Court of Auditors deliver on the cases of MPs suspected of embezzlement or create a whole new “independent institution”, with the mission of arbitrating corruption and illicit enrichment charges against MPs.
This is not the first time that Moroccan MPs have controversially voted against a sensible bill. In July, Moroccan MPs from both houses of the parliament requested that they be accorded free rides onboard the country’s new high speed train in the business section, in spite of their large monthly wages and accompanying bags of privileges.
On that occasion, critics slammed the MPs for their perceived greed and self-entitlement, arguing that most of them are only interested in financial self-advancement and care little for the public good or the fate of their poor constituents.