Israel National News (Link) - Gavriel Queenann (July 7, 2011)
The investigation of a number Palestinian Authority ministers in Salam Fayyad’s current caretaker administration over allegations of fiscal malfeasance and moral corruption puts the lie to claims a PA state would be viable.
On Thursday, the Maan news service reported the PA anti-corruption commission was seeking to have parliamentary immunity lifted on a number of ministers it wants to question pursuant to administrative mismanagement, unfair hiring practices, and pilfering ministerial budgets for their own use.
Rafik Al Natsha, who heads the commission, told Voice of Palestine radio the investigations would be transparent and fair.
The names and number of officials being investigated by the commission have not been released, but the commission said in January it was investigating 80 cases of corruption and had already recovered $5 million from former officials. International observers say $5 million is likely just a drop in the bucket.
Reports of corruption and the plundering of PA coffers under Mahmoud Abbas have pervaded the Israeli media for years - with Channel 10 running a report last year that Abbas himself had withdrawn millions from PA accounts in Amman and Cairo.
Abbas, however, is not under investigation.
Although not officially released, a source close to Fayyad says the Health, Agriculture, and Justice Ministries are facing investigation. The source added two other ministries may also be investigated.
If found guilty of corruption, the ministers face time in prison.
The broadly focused corruption probe comes as Fayyad argues the PA’s latest financial crisis - and its dependence on charitable donations for survival – is not a valid argument against it being considered viable for statehood.
But the problem is pervasive on an institutional level and dates back to the earliest days of the PA’s existence when PLO chairman Yasser Arafat funneled the billions in donations received by the PA through his personal accounts.
So widespread was corruption in the PA regime that, after seeing an anti-corruption report in 1997 citing mass pilfering from his inner circle - many of whom are still in power today - Arafat ordered all future reports to be kept secret.
In 2002 investors demanded Arafat hand over all funds to the Palestine Investment Fund, which Fayyad hailed as “the most successful financial reform in the Arab world.”
Auditors then discovered that Arafat was guilty of skimming $2 million a month from the gasoline trade in the territories. At the time of his death some $1billion in funds donated to the PA went missing from his accounts.
Arab donors have been slow to fulfill their pledges as the PA charges headlong into the UN demanding statehood while Fayyad’s $331 million out of $970 million promised is pouring through his fingers like sand.
The West’s refusal to underwite Fayyad’s statehood plans to the tune of $5 billion is also no surprise. †