Develop an integrity framework in the public sector

Conduct detailed assessments of the vulnerabilities of the system to identify priority reforms

Better understand the vulnerabilities in the public sector by activity and by sector

The work of the National Commission for Investigating Cases of Corruption and Embezzlement has finally shed light on the scope of corruption and identified some high-risk activities, such as public procurement and customs. Tunisia, however, has still not produced a detailed and systematic analysis of the activities and sectors most vulnerable to corruption in the public sector and of the underlying reasons for this corruption.

More intensive studies of sectoral vulnerabilities might be conducted to identify risk areas and to guarantee the adoption of adequate reforms. The experience of OECD member countries reveal that risks are often serious in interactions between governments and citizens, especially in the contexts of social services (health, education, pensions, and other social benefits), and administrative services for small and large businesses (authorisations, inspections).

Close the most important loopholes within the legal framework to limit the risks of abuse

This initial assessment has shown that one source of risk and vulnerability in the system lies in the legal texts inherited from the former regime, which are filled with loopholes. For example, illicit corporate enrichment and corruption is not prosecuted, which, in turn, prevents the sanctioning of these abuses. In addition, specific legal provisions that define the standards of conduct expected from civil servants and that protect whistleblowers are nonexistent.

However, it is important to note that a comprehensive assessment of the legal anti-corruption framework was launched in June of 2012 as part of the Review Mechanism of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). Beyond thoroughly transforming its legal anti-corruption framework, it is crucial that Tunisia mobilise all the human and financial means necessary to guarantee its implementation.

Identify priority measures based on a comprehensive analysis in cooperation with all concerned stakeholders

It is advisable that this initial assessment by the OECD be complemented by a comprehensive analysis within each public institution in order to guarantee that the suggested solutions are truly adapted to the political and administrative context. The OECD applauds the Tunisian government’s move to launch a self-assessment of its anti-corruption mechanisms in both the public and private sectors as part of the OECD’s initiative in June 2012.1

The introduction of management tools such as plans for action or sector strategies could also be useful in determining a realistic time frame for the implementation of reforms. The adoption of a national strategy for fighting corruption could also be considered, provided that it defines priority measures in a feasible timeframe and, even more importantly, that it includes a section on corruption prevention. Indeed, many countries that have developed similar strategies have come to the conclusion that they are often excessively ambitious.

Reinforce specialised capacities for preventing public sector corruption and enhance the independence of supervisory institutions

Provide the newly created institutions with sufficient human and financial means

A sine qua non precondition to the establishment of an anti-corruption framework is the creation of specialised capacities within the government that can facilitate the development and implementation of specific anticorruption policies. Such capacities should be granted sufficient human and financial means so as to guarantee their independence.

In 2012, the Tunisian government took certain measures in order to offset this problem, such as the creation of a Ministry of Governance and the Fight against Corruption, of liaison cells within each ministry, as well as a national anti-corruption body. These moves constitute an important step towards the development of specialised capacities in this area. The main challenge moving forward will be to provide these new institutions with sufficient human and financial means to enable them to fulfil their missions and ensure the coherence of the whole range of anti-corruption policies.

The Ministry of Governance and the Fight against Corruption possesses the potential to reinforce inter-ministerial cooperation. One of the challenges for this newly created ministry will be to bring together all concerned stakeholders - including the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Administrative Reform, and the various supervisory bodies - around the shared project of developing an integrity framework. It is imperative to clearly define an institutional framework and coordination mechanisms between institutions so as to ensure the effective implementation of anticorruption policies. In addition, this ministry could develop specific measures to promote clear standards of conduct in the public sector and increased transparency (see section above).

The recent establishment of good governance and anti-corruption cells within public institutions to act as liaisons with the Ministry of Governance and the Fight against Corruption can facilitate the coordination of anticorruption policies and help develop specialised capacities within each public institution. These cells could identify risk areas, in particular in specific institutions or sectors, and inform the development of adequate counter-measures. It is indeed essential that specialised anti-corruption capacities also be developed for certain risk areas, such as customs or public procurement.

Oversight, audit, and management bodies should be reinforced in order to avoid overlapping controls and to give them the means to guarantee their autonomy. More specifically, it is important to systematically make public the results of their audit activities so as to enable better coordination of these audits, and to allow citizens to have some oversight over the management of public affairs.

Finally, in order to ensure the efficacy of the institutional framework, it is necessary to allocate adequate financial and human means to these institutions so they are able to fulfil their missions.

Develop specific measures for civil servants aimed at raising their awareness of recommended standards of conduct and helping them better manage risks

Before the Revolution, one of the challenges civil servants faced was to remain honest when the country’s political leadership was itself corrupt. Moreover, no specific measures exist in Tunisia to promote the integrity of civil servants (such as codes of conduct). An analysis of risks and vulnerabilities will provide the foundations for a campaign aimed at raising awareness among civil servants in order to establish standards of conduct, help them better prevent such risks, and sanction them for abuses.

The Tunisian government could consider reinforcing the integrity framework by defining, in particular:

  • 1. the key principles and values of civil service, especially by developing a code of conduct for the whole public service sector;
  • 2. training and advisory mechanisms to help civil servants apply these integrity principles in the management of public funds. The governance cells that were newly created in public institutions could contribute to this awareness effort;
  • 3. follow-up mechanisms, such as through the reinstatement of asset declarations, so that they become efficient tools for fighting against illicit enrichment;
  • 4. law enforcement mechanisms as well as sanctions in cases of abuse so as to guarantee effective enforcement of the laws.

Enhance transparency and accountability by involving all the concerned stakeholders

One essential prerequisite to improved accountability and increased citizen involvement in anti-corruption efforts is the existence of an information access law, a situation demonstrated by the experiences of numerous OECD countries.

In 2011, the Tunisian government introduced a decree allowing citizens to access administrative data. Yet, an institutional mechanism for implementing this decree still has to be established. Improving the access of citizens to information will enable them to play a more vital role in surveying the progress made by the government and public institutions in the fight against corruption. In addition, in order to inform the public of possible abuses, it is essential that the reports from the various supervisory bodies be systematically made public.

Furthermore, all concerned parties have not been systematically involved in the formulation of public policies in Tunisia. For instance, neither the private sector nor professional organizations were consulted during the development of the 2011 Decree on public procurement or during the development of the framework-decree on the fight against corruption. Yet the experience of the OECD countries has demonstrated that the active participation of all concerned parties in the development of anti-corruption policies has been a determining factor in their successful implementation.

Tunisian authorities should thus seek to involve all the concerned parties (governmental or not) in the process of formulating and implementing public policies in this area. It would be advisable to map out the terrain of concerned parties to be systematically consulted in order to guarantee, among other things, the involvement of the civil society and private sector stakeholders most concerned by such policies. That said, the first initiatives of the government in this direction are to be commended, such as the integration of representatives from both civil society and the private sector in the national anti-corruption body.

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