The rampant corruption spurring Lebanon protests

Lebanese chant slogans during protests against the government in Beirut. (AP)
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Updated 29 February 2020

The rampant corruption spurring Lebanon protests

  • Lebanese media have accused key political parties of arranging hundreds of illegal hirings at state-owned telecommunications firm Ogero in 2017 and 2018

BEIRUT: The Lebanese government had frozen recruitment but then, around the time of a key election, thousands of people suddenly landed civil servant jobs.
The alleged corruption case is just one of many stirring public anger in Lebanon, where protesters are calling out rampant graft they say has brought the economy to its knees.
Cronyism in the public sector, bribes, conflicts of interest and dodgy procurement deals — Lebanese have been angrily detailing their complaints in waves of mass protests since October, crying out that enough is enough.
The authorities have said they are determined to root out corruption, and state prosecutors frequently say they have launched a probe or questioned a official.
But experts and protesters are skeptical. How, they ask, are they expected to believe in change from leaders who benefit from the system and whose interest is to preserve it?
In August 2017, Lebanon passed a law to halt all recruitment in the public sector.
But after that decision and through 2018, more than 5,000 people were taken on in murky circumstances, a source at the oversight body for public administrations said.
That period coincided with the country’s first parliamentary election in nine years.
“It’s buying votes,” says Assaad Thebian, who heads the anti-graft nongovernmental organization Gherbal Initiative.

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Cronyism in the public sector, bribes, conflicts of interest and dodgy procurement deals — Lebanese have been angrily detailing their complaints in waves of mass protests since October, crying out that enough is enough.

“When you give someone a job, you’re buying their loyalty and that of their relatives,” he said.
Lebanese media have also accused key political parties of arranging hundreds of illegal hirings at state-owned telecommunications firm Ogero in 2017 and 2018.
Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International said in December that almost one in two Lebanese had been offered a bribe for a vote.
Parliament’s finance committee investigated 5,000 hirings, and the file has been transmitted to the Court of Audit.
Committee Chairman Ibrahim Kenaan said it was not his place to analyze what had happened.
“But logically, it’s a political issue,” he said.
“It was a period of elections. Maybe it was easy to just provide someone with a job.
“Maybe it’s to do with ... people being used to no one being held accountable.”
But the lawmaker, who represents the Free Patriotic Movement of President Michel Aoun, now under fire for its record in power, said things would change.
“Now there’s accountability — at least we’re trying,” he said.
Laws are being drafted to prevent illicit enrichment and retrieve stolen public funds, Kenaan said.


Iraq flies hundreds stranded abroad home amid coronavirus crisis

Updated 25 min 46 sec ago

Iraq flies hundreds stranded abroad home amid coronavirus crisis

  • Iraq flew nationals from UAE, Egypt, Belarus and Lebanon
  • Countries have closed down travel to curb the spread of COVID-19

DUBAI: Iraq has flown hundreds of its citizens home who were stranded abroad because of travel regulations imposed amid the spread of COVID-19.
The Iraqi Embassy in UAE coordinated with local authorities to fly out 276 nationals on Iraqi Airways.

Meanwhile, the airline repatriated 212 citizens from Egypt.
Iraq also flew out 115 nationals from Belarus, and 261 citizens from Lebanon.
As the numbers of COVID-19 patients have been growing worldwide, countries have been implementing regulations which limit travel abroad.
UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and several other countries have suspended international flights.
The current number of cases worldwide has surpassed 800,000, with over 42,000 deaths and more that 178,000 recoveries.