Two documents leaked online have generated furor over corruption which critics claim runs rampant in the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Associated Press reported. The authenticity of the documents was verified by the media outlet by one senior PA official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The two documents represent efforts by officials to redirect public funds for their own benefit. One was a request by a diplomatic advisor to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for $4 million from Bahrain’s foreign minister to fund a private complex for PA officials in an upscale neighborhood in Ramallah. The official, Majdi al-Khaldi, insisted the complex was intended to “resist the Israeli settlements,” despite no settlements being nearby. It was not clear whether Bahrain acquiesced.
A second document was submitted by Nazmi Muhanna, general director of the Palestinian Crossing and Borders Authority. He demanded the government cover his daughter’s schooling as well as medical treatment for his family in Jordan for a total of $15,000, saying it was permitted by government rules. The PA claimed it denied Muhanna’s request.
Word spread over social media, along with outrage. “If Muhanna’s daughter costs the Palestinian Authority 6,500 Jordanian dinars [about $9,200] in private school in Jordan, what about the poor students in government schools? Who will pay attention to them?” Mohammed Abu Allan, a Palestinian political blogger, wrote on Facebook.
The PA defends its record on government corruption, saying it has recovered millions of dollars in misspent funds. However, with a stagnating economy and growing dissatisfaction over government services, many Palestinians are still dismayed.
According to Azmi Shoabi, the head of Aman, a branch of the corruption watchdog Transparency International, “There are big black holes” in the Palestinian financial and administrative system that “need to be addressed and reformed.” These including failing to publish financial reports in a timely and appropriate manner and not overseeing roughly 20 government-run funds headed by executives with massive salaries, he explained.
Shoabi accused certain departments of having become “private kingdoms” for some officials.
While corruption has diminished since Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, and Rafeq Natsheh, head of the Palestinian anti-corruption commission claims they have recovered millions in stolen funds, for many, the leaked documents signal that nothing has changed.
“We need to see the real picture, which is much bigger than the fees of Muhanna’s daughter,” Rami Mehdawi, a columnist for the Palestinian Al-Ayyam newspaper, wrote on Facebook. “The entire Palestinian system needs to be addressed and reformed to clean up the rampant corruption, mismanagement and nepotism.”