CAIRO: In a notorious corruption case, 25 officials from the Ministry of Religious Endowments were accused of illegally registering nonexistent mosques in the governorates of Giza, Menufiya and El-Beheira and squandering public money.
Sheikh Hussein Habib Ahmed, an imam at a Menufiya mosque, accused officials of registering around 200 fictional or already registered mosques and appointing their acquaintances as workers there to put them on the payroll, the local press reported.
The case dates back to October 2008 when Habib filed a complaint to the Public Funds Investigations Authority, accusing the officials of misusing the ministry’s funds.
The accused comprise senior officials at the ministry, including Mohamed Abdel Moaty El-Sayed, office manager of the president of the administration sector; Hamdy El-Adawy, secretary to the director of the administration sector; Mohamed El-Qot, director of public mosques at the endowments administration in Menufiya; and Ihsan El-Dessouki, an engineering department official.
However, Samir Fawzi, ministry spokesman, denied news reports placing the blame on the aforementioned officials.
“The investigation is still ongoing and we can’t accuse anyone before it is over, Fawzi told Daily News Egypt.
However, he confirmed news about the registration of nonexistent mosques.
According to the investigation, the accused also added mosques that are not suitable for prayers, appointing workers in return for bribes.
Habib said that officials also registered mosques to their respective governorates without informing their owners, which is in violation of the ministry’s rules.
He cited a mosque in Menufiya registered under the name “Ahmed Ibn Idris and then registered again in another governorate under a different name.
The officials from the engineering department altered the mosque’s blueprints to make it look like another mosque, he said.
A mosque added to both El-Beheira governorate and Giza was later found to not exist altogether.
Another report was sent to the public prosecution by Abdel Rasoul Abdel Zein, owner of a mosque in El-Khatatba area, which was again registered without his consent under the name of a different owner.
Habib accused Sami Tawfiq Ali, the ministry’s undersecretary in Menufiya, Sayed Khalifa, secretary of the religious endowments administration and Mohamed Hassan Morad, head of the preaching department at the ministry, of accepting bribes to appoint their relatives at those mosques.
Hamdy Zaqzouq, minister of religious endowments, told the press that corruption will not be tolerated and demanded the investigations be completed as soon as possible.
The ministry’s regulations stipulate that a mosque’s owner file a request to register it under the ministry’s supervision, the request is then referred to a committee that inspects the mosque and compiles a report.
The report includes a description of the mosque’s condition and its location, as well as its blueprints, attached with a confirmation from the local unit that the mosque falls under its jurisdiction.
A committee formed by Zaqzouq found that 27 mosques were in violation of the ministry’s regulations.
However, Ali Abdel Latif, head of the committee and head of northern Egypt directories, said in the investigations that the violations were merely administrative glitches and weren’t deliberate.
He added that officials responsible for mosque inspections were accused of negligence, but denied allegations that workers were appointed to these mosques.