Morocco expands anti-corruption campaign, probes officials

The judiciary works to uphold the principle of accountability in all positions of responsibility
Tuesday 13/04/2021
The court house in Sale, Morocco. (AFP)
The court house in Sale, Morocco. (AFP)

Rabat--The pace of investigations of elected officials in the various regions and provinces of Morocco has intensified, with judicial prosecution on suspicion of financial and legal corruption that has marred projects related to public utilities.

Zainab al-Adaoui, who was appointed by King Mohammed VI of Morocco to head the Higher Accounting Council, stressed the need to tighten control over public expenditures and prevent abuse and squandering  of government funds by ensuring greater supervision  by financial courts.

In order to enhance transparency in the public sector and uphold the principle of accountability in public service positions of responsibility, Adaoui supervised a series of meetings with the various components of the council, to draft a strategic plan to upgrade the performance of financial courts in the implementation of royal instructions.

Political science researcher Cherifa Lemouir told The Arab Weekly that “the opening of serious investigations into corruption cases is a positive step on the path of democracy in Morocco”.

She added that if Morocco is able today to uphold the principle of linking responsibility to accountability, it will have made a key step forward in promoting democracy.

The public attorney at the court of appeals in Marrakesh decided to prosecute former Socialist Union MP Hassan al-Derham, along with 17 other defendants, on criminal charges related to forgery, squandering and embezzlement of public funds. The case came against the background of financial embezzlement and legal violations in the municipality of El-Marsa in the Laayoune province in southern Morocco.

Legal experts praised the launch of judicial proceedings against Derham and officials in elected councils in the three regions of the Saharan provinces.

The judicial prosecutions have followed demands to investigate suspected embezzlement in a number of institutions and departments and to sanction convicted officials.

The Moroccan Network for Human Rights and the Control of Wealth and the Protection of Public Funds called for an investigation into what it described as “serious violations” in the management and administration of the council of the Beni Mellal Khenifra region, which is headed by Ibrahim Moujahid of the Authenticity and Modernity Party.

In a complaint addressed to the general prosecutor at the Casablanca court of appeals, the Network cited a number of violations, which it said “require conducting the necessary legal probes, applying the law and enforcing penalties in accordance with the legal provisions in force.”

The Moroccan Association for the Protection of Public Funds also called for activating the role of regulatory institutions to carry out a comprehensive audit of the public administration in the region, especially in its financial aspects, and to refer penal cases to the judiciary as part of linking responsibility to accountability, expanding the powers of governance oversight bodies and enabling them to carry out their supervisory duties.

The Higher Accounting Council is a constitutional body whose experts and judges are tasked with scrutinising the disbursement of public funds and vetting the compulsory declaration of property by government officials.

Adaoui, president of the council, stressed the need for financial courts to exercise all their constitutional prerogatives, in implementation of King Mohammed VI’s directives, which are to ensure that this institution fully carries out its constitutional duties, especially in exercising oversight over public finances and promoting the principles and values of good governance, transparency and accountability.

She pointed out that the Higher Accounting Council has the duty to probe all suspected pilfering of public money and unmask cases where officials do not ensure the good management of public money.

She said, “Today, we face the challenge of restoring the credibility of the principle of linking responsibility to accountability, especially in a country like Morocco.”

Abdeljelil Labdaoui, head of the Safi community, is being tried before the judiciary, along with other employees, after the investigating magistrate in charge of financial crimes decided to prosecute them on charges of forgery and squandering of public funds.

A legal adviser had filed a complaint with the Marrakech court of appeals against the defendants whose case was referred by an investigating magistrate in charge of financial crimes to the criminal chamber.

The financial courts are currently working on a strategic plan for the next phase that defines the objectives and the necessary structural changes needed to enhance their performance and enable them to carry out the tasks entrusted to them, contribute to improve transparency in the public sector and uphold the principle of linking responsibility to accountability.