Palestine: Anti-Corruption Investigator Says Fraud Allegations Over-Hyped
The man charged with investigating as much as US$ 1 billion allegedly stolen from aid to Palestine said that over the past five years, he has recovered only US$ 70 million, according to Reuters.
Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Rafiq al-Natsheh said that despite years of international rumors to the contrary, he is not finding massive fraud.
"There is lots of talk about corruption, but there is very little actual corruption," the 81-year-old told Reuters in his offices in Ramallah."You hear people talk about billions, but it's not like that … When it comes to the facts, showing the evidence, there is much less.”
Natsheh, appointed by presidential order in 2010, was given power to investigate corrupt practices that include bribery, embezzlement, nepotism and misappropriation. He says that his powers extend to every government department and ministry all the way to the presidency, and that he had expected to find more corruption, according to Reuters.
Annual direct support to the Palestinian budget has fallen from US$ 1.3 billion to less than US$ 700 million over the past five years. The decline has been attributed to frustration over improper spending or accountability, with the European Union and United States shifting to more bilateral aid programs where they have more control over spending, according to Reuters. The EU has sent investigators of its own to look into some cases, Reuters reports.
Natsheh said that his team’s biggest challenge has been working with foreign countries to reclaim millions from outside Palestine. He said that he got “US$ 40 million back from Egypt and US$ 20 million from Iraq,” but that US$ 34 million has still not been recovered despite the conviction against an advisor to the late President Yasser Arafat.
Overall, “tens of million” of dollars still needs tracking down, according to Natsheh.
Natsheh hopes to employ more staffers, adding that he would be prepared to investigate the presidency if he had reason to, according to Reuters.