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The Anti-Corruption and Integrity Framework

In the aftermath of the Revolution of January 2011 and to respond to widespread public demands for transparency and for anti-corruption efforts, the Tunisian government has launched a programme to reform the public sector integrity framework with a view to reinforcing transparency, integrity, and the prevention of corruption. This chapter examines the existing legal and institutional arrangements, and proposes a roadmap of the main elements to be taken into account in the development of an integrity framework in order to guarantee its actual implementation.

The current state of corruption

Since the Jasmine Revolution of January 2011 the provisional Tunisian authorities have launched numerous investigations and analyses of the corruption attributed to the former regime through the creation of an independent commission in charge of working on these issues. These efforts have brought to light the abuses perpetrated by the former regime in certain areas that are particularly susceptible to corruption, and have revealed the numerous mechanisms used to divert public resources to a very small circle of individuals close to former President Ben Ali.

The National Commission for Investigating Cases of Corruption and Embezzlement (NCICM) has obtained most of the information needed in this area. The Commission, whose mission and work will be described in greater detail below, has focused on cases of political corruption, which often reveal legal loopholes, or, more simply, the absence of checks to counterbalance the executive power. This work has led to an analysis of the weaknesses in certain areas and processes, including public procurement, urban planning and land management, privatisation and concessions, as well as import authorisation regimes and customs. There is however limited information available on the general state of corruption in Tunisia. In particular, there is neither a systematic and comprehensive assessment of the corruption risks at the national level in the entire public sector, nor a global analysis of the risks affecting specific sectors, such as those related to social services delivery, which have the greatest impact on the lives of citizens.

In addition, it seems to be generally assumed that the administration was overall honest and worked well, and that corruption therefore only affected the top levels of power. There is, however, no evidence to support such an assertion.

Note: International experiences have shown that the fight against corruption requires, from the start, a comprehensive assessment of the situation, or in other words, an analysis of the problem. Otherwise, one might not assess the problem(s) correctly and might therefore implement the wrong solutions with no positive results. Even worse, public resources invested in such reform efforts would then be wasted, as would be the public confidence in the commitment of public authorities to the fight against corruption. General assumptions on the existence of corruption, or lack thereof, should thus be tested by conducting a more detailed analysis in order to identify the most frequent types of corruption and the most vulnerable activities and sectors.

Many tools are available for accomplishing this task, such as analytical assessments of corruption risks in specific areas, or surveys of public service user experiences. Considering Tunisia’s recent history, it might be particularly important to prioritise a comprehensive understanding of the forms of corruption that affect the poorest segments of the population, such as social services (health, education, pensions, and other social benefits), administrative services for businesses (permits, inspections), and other government functions with which citizens are the most in contact (the police, for example).

The OECD welcomes the self-assessment exercise the Tunisian government launched in June of 2012 as part of the OECD initiative. This self-assessment exercise will make it possible to complete a detailed survey of the types of corruption and risk areas in both the public and the private sectors. It will also help define the appropriate measures for preventing corruption, in cooperation with the integrity cells that were recently created in public institutions. The Tunisian government can rely more specifically on the online toolbox that was developed on the basis of OECD recommendations reflecting international best practices.

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