EUPOL COPPS submits recommendations to strengthen Palestinian framework for checking assets of public officials
The EU’s Policing and Rule of Law Mission in Ramallah (EUPOL COPPS) submitted a report and a manual to the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) on Wednesday 9 September, which should support a strengthened framework for verifying the assets of Palestinian public officials and fighting corruption. “A system where public officials have to declare their assets as well as their commercial interests on a regular basis is a very good way to ensure transparency and fight corruption,” said Giovanni Galzignato, Head of the Rule of Law Section at EUPOL COPPS. “You may have a situation where a public official owns property or drives vehicles that are worth significantly more than their income. The assets might have been obtained in a perfectly legal way, but it also might be an indication of corruption. A well-functioning system where public officials declare their assets, so that these can be verified is a good tool to detect wealth that has been obtained illegally”. An asset declaration system for Palestinian officials has been in place since 2003, and 60,000 – 70,000 declarations are submitted every year. The PACC is an independent agency with responsibility for investigating corruption, and in March 2019, the law was changed to provide it with significantly greater powers to systematically verify these declarations. This should have a decisive impact on the fight against corruption, but nonetheless important challenges remain. Challenges include the fact that all declarations are currently submitted in paper form and verification is consequently time-consuming. There is also scope to make the filling in of the form more user friendly as well as to strengthen the ways the information contained in the declaration can be verified against other sources, for example the official land registry or vehicle registry. The report submitted by EUPOL COPPS to PACC provides concrete recommendations on how the system can be improved. For example, moving the process of filling in the declarations online would make it easier for officials to fill them in, as well as easier to verify them. The report also recommends providing public officials with clear instructions on how to fill in the form, in order to avoid mistakes, and also greater clarity in the declaration about when income or assets were obtained and the value of transactions. The report is accompanied by a manual, which provides a step-by-step guide to international best practices on how to analyse declarations. They were drafted by Dr Tilman Hoppe, an anti-corruption expert from Germany. During the meeting held to hand over the report and the manual, the Head of the PACC, Dr Ahmed Barak thanked EUPOL COPPS for its support and emphasised that the Commission is greatly interested in the issue of asset declarations. He explained that the Commission has succeeded in collecting 90% of declarations required by civil servants, and that the it has a clear plan to ensure greater compliance.