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Cablegate: Anticorruption Authority Presses Efforts

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRB #0062/01 0321645
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 011645Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1099
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 0063

UNCLAS RABAT 000062

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR INL/AAE, NEA/PI AND NEA/MAG
STATE PLEASE PASS USTR - P BURKHEAD
TUNIS ALSO FOR MEPI REGIONAL OFFICE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PINS ECON KCOR PGOV KMPI MO
SUBJECT: ANTICORRUPTION AUTHORITY PRESSES EFFORTS

REF: 08 RABAT 0887

1. (U) Summary: In its first year, Morocco's
Central Authority for Corruption Prevention (ICPC),
established by the Government as the coordinating
body for the fight against corruption, has initiated
work on several draft anti-corruption laws. While
Morocco's Transparency International corruption
ratings worsened in 2009, recently the Government
has sought to reinvigorate anti-corruption efforts.
In December 2009, the Government set up an inter-
ministerial commission to oversee and update
Morocco's anti-corruption strategy. In January, in
cooperation with the private sector, the government
instituted an ethics and corruption oversight body
for the Customs Administration. At a recent meeting
with Ambassador, the ICPC put forward several ideas
for possible cooperation with the Embassy. End
summary.

------------------------------------
FOCUS ON ANTI-CORRUPTION LEGISLATION
------------------------------------

2. (U) On January 14, the Ambassador, Economic
Counselor and EconOff met with ICPC President
Abdesselam Aboudrar and several members of his ICPC
team. Aboudrar, one of the founders of NGO
Transparency Maroc, outlined the ICPC's plans. The
ICPC became operational in January 2009 with a
mission to ensure inter-ministerial coordination in
anti-corruption efforts and to evaluate the
effectiveness of the Government's actions (reftel).
Aboudrar emphasized that the ICPC's focus is
prevention, not prosecution and investigation of
corruption cases.

3. (U) The ICPC has emphasized areas of corruption
that most directly affect common citizens, including
traffic enforcement, public health services, the
justice system and urban planning. Aboudrar told
the Ambassador the ICPC is drafting legislation on
whistleblower protection and on public access to
information. The ICPC is also developing tools for
prevention of conflicts of interest. Aboudrar
explained that although the ICPC does not adjudicate
corruption cases, it forwards corruption complaints
it receives to the Ministry of Justice for follow-
up.

4. (SBU) Aboudrar said that in 2010 the ICPC plans
to increase its staff from 25 to 45 members and open
several regional offices. He conceded that the
Moroccan Government has not yet allocated sufficient
funding for these projects. He felt confident that
the ICPC would obtain an increased budget, he said,
since the ICPC "enjoys support of the highest
level."

--------------------------
NEED TO INCREASE SANCTIONS
--------------------------

5. (SBU) Aboudrar noted that increasing sanctions
for corruption was essential, since Moroccans will
not believe that there is political will to fight
corruption unless criminals are punished. He
explained that in Morocco corruption is often not
considered a crime, but a common fact of everyday
life. Aboudrar opined that the Government needs to
tackle both high-level and petty corruption. Petty
corruption, he explained, affects daily lives of
people, and it can even be a "question of life or
death" if someone needs to pay a bribe to get
medical care. Aboudrar also stressed the need to
regulate monopolies and introduce measures to
increase the government's transparency and
accountability.

------------------------------------------
TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL RANKING WORSENS
------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) The Ambassador emphasized that corruption
in the judiciary is a serious deterrent to increased
American investment in Morocco. Aboudrar told us
that the ICPC would address corruption in the
judicial system through a series of public debates
planned for 2010. Although government officials
frequently cite corruption as one of the key
obstacles to development, the public perception is
that the problem worsened over the last decade.
Transparency International (TI) ranked 89th Morocco
in a list of 180 countries included in its 2009
Corruption Perception Index Survey. With a 3.3
index on a scale from 0 to 10, Morocco's ranking
slid by 9 places from 2008. According to TI, real
estate is the sector perceived as most affected by
corruption, and the judiciary is considered the most
corrupt public institution. Aboudrar recently told
the press that the fight against corruption is a
long-term undertaking and it would take some time
for the country to reap the benefits of the efforts
it makes to curb the phenomenon.

--------------------------------------------- ---
GOVERNMENT REINVIGORATES ANTI-CORRUPTION EFFORTS
--------------------------------------------- ---

7. (SBU) In December 2009, the Government of
Morocco formed a ministerial-level commission tasked
with updating the government's anti-corruption
strategy and developing a set of new laws, including
a draft law on access to information and a draft law
on whistleblower protection. The ICPC will work
closely with the ministerial commission. On January
19, the Customs Administration, in cooperation with
the quasi-official private sector association, the
General Confederation of Moroccan Companies (CGEM),
established a watchdog body tasked with collecting
information and providing analysis on ethics
problems and corruption within the Customs
Administration. The "observatory" will help
identify areas particularly prone to corruption and
will follow up on implementation of its
recommendations.

8. (SBU) The Government of Morocco has recently
taken part in several international and regional
initiatives to improve public governance. In
November 2009, Morocco took over the co-presidency
of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development's (OECD's) Middle East and North Africa
(MENA) Initiative on Good Governance and Investment
for Development. Morocco will also chair the third
Convention of the State Parties to the UN Convention
against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2011.

--------------------------------------------- -------
ICPC OUTLINES IDEAS FOR COOPERATION WITH THE EMBASSY
--------------------------------------------- -------

9. (SBU) ICPC Secretary General Rabha Zeidguy
presented several areas for possible cooperation
with the Embassy to help Morocco's anticorruption
effort. These include: promoting ethics in the
public sector; developing tools and indicators for
evaluating effectiveness of inspection and control
bodies of the government and judiciary; promoting e-
government as a tool to fight corruption; and
engaging speakers to participate in debates on
corruption in the judiciary.

10. (SBU) Comment: We agree with many observers
that the public perception of the government's
determination to tackle corruption will depend
largely on whether there are prosecutions of well-
connected, large-scale operators. If all the "big
fish" appear to escape the net, broad support to
crack down on petty bribe-taking by police and
health care personnel will dissipate. It is too
early to conclude that Aboudrar and his colleagues
on the ICPC have the high-level backing they will
need to pursue an evenhanded approach to rooting out
corruption. The Mission intends to continue to
support the ICPC's efforts while waiting for the
evidence to come in, financing not only performances
of an anti-corruption play through public diplomacy
and Middle East Partnership Initiative funds but
also seeking new vehicles to highlight the anti-
corruption message. End Comment.

Kaplan

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