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Jordan committed to stepping up action against corruption

By Rana Husseini - May 17,2016 - Last updated at May 17,2016

AMMAN — Jordan has agreed to step up its anti-corruption efforts in tandem with international partners who met in London last week and recommended concrete measures to fight graft globally, Justice Minister Bassam Talhouni said.

In an exclusive interview with The Jordan Times at his office Monday, the minister said the Kingdom reiterated at the gathering its commitment to fighting graft, adopting the recommendations made by the global partners. 

The Anti-Corruption Summit: London 2016 proposed action to “expose, punish and drive out corruption in all walks of life” and was attended by heads of states and officials from 40 countries.

Talhouni said Jordan has already gone a long way in its own anti-graft fight, citing the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC) and the enactment of “strong laws for that purpose under which several officials have been tried and punished”.

The justice minister participated in the high level event on behalf of His Majesty King Abdullah along with the ACC President Mohammad Allaf.

This summit was seeking to galvanise a global response to tackle corruption, according to the event’s website. As well as agreeing on a package of actions to tackle corruption across the board, it dealt with issues including corporate secrecy, government transparency, the enforcement of international anti-corruption laws, and the strengthening of international institutions.

Turning to the London summit, the minister said the meeting was unique “because it expanded its methods to explore better ways to combat corruption worldwide”.

The summit's initiative was led by British Prime Minister David Cameron and focussed on three aspects: exposing corruption, punishing the corrupt and supporting those who suffer from corruption as well as driving out the culture of corruption.

At the conclusion of the one-day summit that was held on May 12, the minister said that several resolutions were adopted by the states attending the event, including Jordan.

Among the resolutions adopted by Jordan, according to the minister, was exposing public central registers of companies’ beneficial owner information.

“Jordan also committed to not accepting the registration of any company unless all the names were known to avoid violations such as tax evasion,” the minster explained.

It also welcomed the establishment of a transparent central register of foreign companies bidding on public contracts and buying properties, according to the minister.

The Kingdom also committed to working together with other countries to share information with the public and private sectors to ensure the most effective response to international money laundering, the minister said.

“Jordan will also be reviewing penalties and other actions against professional enablers of tax evasions, such as auditors, lawyers and bank employees, including companies that failed to prevent their employees from facilitating tax evasion,” the minister explained.

As for punishing the corrupt and supporting individuals or entities who have suffered from corruption, the minister added, “Jordan committed to exploring ways of sharing information on corrupt bidders across the borders.”

The Kingdom was also committed to strengthening its asset recovery legislation through non-conviction based confiscation powers and enforcing unexplained wealth orders.

As for the point related to driving out the culture of corruption whenever it exists, Talhouni said Jordan will join the international sport integrity partnership as well as participating in an innovation hub that will facilitate the uptake of new approaches and technologies to tackle corruption.

Jordan will also support the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Centre at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to strengthen the impact and coherence of the OECD’s existing anti-corruption work.

The London summit declaration and commitments by the states “will be addressed and adopted during the UN meeting in 2017”.

Parliament endorsed earlier this year the 2015 draft integrity and anti-corruption law under which the Audit Bureau and the Anti- Corruption Commission (ACC) will be integrated into one administrative and financially independent entity called the national centre for integrity and anti-corruption. As per the bill, abuse of public office, ill-gained fortunes, bribery, “wasta” (using personal connections to obtain favours or undeserved gains) and other practices are classified as corruption.    

The law also stipulates that a specialised prosecutor general, appointed by the Higher Judicial Council, will look into corruption-related cases referred by the envisioned commission.

Also under the law, people can file complaints against public agencies for their failure to comply with the principles of the National Integrity Charter, a major component of the anti-graft drive. 

In February, Jordan registered an improvement on the Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index compared to the previous year, coming in 45th place among 168 countries as the least corrupted state. 
Last year, the Kingdom was ranked 55 among 175 countries in the index, scoring 49 out of 100.

The ACC was established in 2007 by a Royal Decree to strengthen confidence in state institutions and provide justice to all citizens. 

 

The commission also aims at promoting equal opportunities and fairness in the distribution of development gains through a national strategy to combat corruption and boost institutional capacity to prevent, detect and investigate all issues associated with it.

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