Opinion| Libya and the Fight against Corruption

Hatem Sadek
8 Min Read
Dr Hatem Sadiq

This week, Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeiba and his government took the constitutional oath before Parliament.

According to a statement by the Prime Minister’s media office, Dbeiba held a meeting with directors of departments and offices in the Bureau, to develop an action plan for coordination between the ministers of the Government of National Unity (GNU).

So far, the new government has not announced a specific city to host the headquarters of the Cabinet, and it seems that an agreement has been reached that the government’s work will be distributed over several Libyan cities.

There is a prevailing opinion that Sirte will host government meetings, due to its strategic location and its being secure away from the control of mercenaries and militias. The poverty of government buildings and the destruction of infrastructure in 2015, during the war against the terrorist organisation ISIS, may prevent the government from working within it completely.

The Libyan Government’s work will be divided between the capital, Tripoli, where the Prime Minister and six ministers will be located, and the cities of Sirte and Tobruk or Benghazi, given the difficulty of meeting ministries’ work in one city during the coming period.

The division of the government’s work in more than one city is not the only challenge facing the Dbeiba government, especially since the most dangerous files have not yet come into play. This is in light of the absence of mechanisms for the Prime Minister to implement his decisions on the ground.

Also, there is an almost complete collapse of the infrastructure, due to the security situation that the country has gone through.

State institutions suffer from a severe shortage of capabilities that limit the performance of their role, besides the fact that the security arrangements will be a slight hindrance to government work in any city. The division of labour, however, may give a positive impression that the government will act in the interest of all Libyans.

These challenges, despite their seriousness, may diminish along with other dilemmas, such as the rampant corruption and weapons that are widespread in all Libyan regions.

Recently, the Libyan Audit Bureau in Tripoli released its report for fiscal year (FY) 2019, in which it disclosed that billions went to the militias or were devoured by corruption. The report also revealed that former Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez Al-Sarraj issued decisions to allocate amounts of LYD 664m and LYD 500,000 to unknown parties. Meanwhile, there were 13 cheques attached to the treasury, with a value of LYD 33.712m, of which only 12 were found.

The report stated that there was a surge in the volume of foreign supplies during the years 2012, 2013, and 2015, which can only be found on paper but are in fact not real, and as a result, money was smuggled abroad, estimated at LYD 140bn.

The report discovered that LYD 524.676m was issued by Libya’s Ministry of Finance, which was not presented to the audit department, which is considered a defect in the internal control system in the ministry.

Moreover, the report revealed that salaries continue to be paid to employees who resigned from the Al-Sarraj Council, whilst others are assigned under the name of “full-time advisors” even though they hold other positions.

This includes a consultant who works as the director of the legal department in the government, and other works as an employee at the Libyan delegation in Cairo.

Sums of money were also disbursed to the political advisor to Al-Sarraj and his family, in exchange for travel tickets and hotel accommodations, according to Al-Sarraj’s instructions. This amounted to LYD 1.492m, and came in addition to the payment of travel and overnight allowances for people who do not have a functional relationship with the Council.

A further LYD 1.127m was found to have been spent on the Bab Al-Bahr Hotel in exchange for meals for the guards. However, there is no contract that includes the legal conditions, the value of the meals, and the actual number of meals.

More than LYD 5.288bn were spent on the armed groups affiliated with Al-Wefaq in the financial arrangements, according to the report, which indicated the disbursement of LYD 1.313bn under the item “miscellaneous”. A total of LYD 2.616bn was reportedly spent on salaries, along with LYD 270m on distinction bonuses, LYD 300m for accommodation, LYD 50m on clothes, whilst LYD 171.413m reportedly went to an item called “Contribution to Guarantee”.

Numerous observations were recorded by the Bureau in this regard, indicating that travel allowances were paid to the princes of armed groups, amounting to LYD 11.515m, without clarifying how they are calculated.

The salaries of the militia leaders amounted to LYD 206.120m, whilst the militia leaders also took sums that were allocated for the expenses of workers and salaries for individuals at an amount of LYD 20.657m, according to the report.

The report also said that LYD 12.982m was allocated for the maintenance of buildings, fixtures, and furniture, of which only 8% of its value was actually transferred to the implementing agencies for the item.

Expenditures on advertising also amounted to LYD 31m, of which only 62% was transferred to the authorities, in addition to LYD 206.150m that was transferred as support to some departments of the Ministry of Defence in the GNA. However, these were spent directly instead on making it a “financial covenant.”

As for the Ministry of Interior under Fathi Bashagha, its expenditures amounted to LYD 3.7bn, of which LYD 2.4bn in expenditures were recorded in the approved budget. This was in addition to LYD 1.3bn of commitments in place as of 31 December 2019, which have not been ratified or verified, according to the report.

Libyans agree on the fact that corruption is unprecedented in the country, as a result of the tensions and divisions that the country has witnessed over the past years. These have resulted in catastrophic crises that the Libyan people pay their taxes towards.

In light of all these events, opinions differ about the extent to which Dbeiba’s government can take effective steps to tackle corruption, especially in light of the short period during which it operates, and the main task assigned to it, to lead Libya until elections are held.

Dr Hatem Sadek, Professor at Helwan University

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