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Royal Hashemite Court (Jordan)

King urges meaningful debate over draft integrity charter
Amman, 18 August 2013

His Majesty King Abdullah on Sunday stressed the importance of developing and updating an integrated and efficient set of codes for national integrity that are agreed on by all societal sectors as a main pillar for the success of the Kingdom’s reform drive.

During a meeting with the president and members of the Royal Committee for Enhancing National Integrity, King Abdullah said the draft of the charter on national integrity, which has been recently finalised, should be put forward before the various representatives of the community, along with its executive plan, which should have a fixed time frame, to pave the way for holding a national conference to endorse the proposed charter with the highest level of consensus possible over it.

“We are looking forward for the national integrity charter to become a roadmap to activate and regulate the work of oversight agencies, in a manner that boosts citizens’ confidence in all state institutions and their performance,” His Majesty told attendees.

The King directed the government to cooperate with all sectors of Jordanian society in a manner that guarantees sound implementation of the outcome of the committee’s work and boosts the principles of good governance.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, who is the president of the committee, said the panel has held 22 meetings with the heads of various oversight entities, including the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Audit Bureau, the Ombudsman Bureau, the Central Bank of Jordan, the Jordan Securities Commission, the Industry and Trade’s Company Comptroller Department and the Insurance Commission. The meetings were held to diagnose each entity’s individual problems and the challenges facing them, he said.

In the past eight months, the committee worked on the preparation of a draft national integrity charter and on another draft memorandum that clarifies the charter, while it drafted a comprehensive executive plan for the charter, according to Ensour.

The premier explained that the draft charter entails a definition of the principles of integrity, transparency, accountability and the association between power and responsibility. It also defines checks and balances in public administration, in addition to tax and legislative controls.

He outlined the sections of the explanatory memo, which includes sections defining the standards of integrity for the private sector, the judiciary, political parties, NGOs and the media. 

The executive plan set to implement the charter will entail mechanisms to reinforce the capabilities of oversight agencies and revisit the legislative and procedural structures of the state budget, including tender referrals and the way the budget is prepared.

The civil service and all state financial systems will also be subject to review in light of the standards set in the proposed charter.

Ensour noted that the committee will reach out to all stakeholders for feedback, including civil society institutions, in all the country’s 12 governorates, as of early September.

The segments that will have a say over the proposed charter, according to the premier, include members of the consultative councils in governorates, tribal and refugee camp leaders, former MPs, senior retired officers and representatives of commerce and industry chambers, professional associations and women’s and youth sectors.

Members of the charter committee will also meet with incumbent MPs, senators, university presidents, political party leaders, trade unions and political powers.

The feedback collected will be discussed at a national conference during which the draft charter will be endorsed.

During the meeting, panel member Taher Masri, who is also Senate president, stressed the need to enhance the capacities of public administration bodies to achieve the integrity committee’s goals.

Masri called for ensuring the sustainability of the panel’s work, noting that “it is not enough to draw up a charter and some plans”.

The government needs to be equipped to implement these plans, he noted, which calls for a comprehensive view of appointment, promotion, training and job description procedures.

Committee member Abdul Majid Thneibat said reform is an evolutionary and sustainable process, stressing that all goals cannot be achieved in “a single leap”.

“I believe that the members of this committee have laid aside their political leanings and found consensus in their love for the homeland,” he added.

For his part, Mahmoud Erdisat, another member, said the executive plan was the major component of the panel’s work, aimed to enhance laws and procedures to best serve the purposes of reform.

He called for closer cooperation among the three branches of government to entrench legislation enacted to apply the national integrity charter on the ground.

Muhammad Hamouri called for revisiting the legal system as a whole in parallel with the integrity charter and the executive plan, noting that reviewing laws includes setting a long-term action plan, assigning specialised legal committees to examine pieces of legislation and issuing memos to investors to highlight the laws that are in effect.

Panel member Mousa Breizat said the committee, as formed by King Abdullah, seeks to enhance public confidence in state institutions, noting that reform, openness and democratic transformation are all parts of the integrity system, which promotes citizens’ and civil society organisations’ direct involvement in efforts aimed at enhancing integrity.

Citizens, he added, should be monitors over the state’s oversight bodies.

Breizat also said there is “substantial progress” in respect to human rights, public freedoms and grass-roots participation in political life.

“His Majesty’s support is key in enhancing integrity and trust between citizens and the state,” he noted.

Another member, Rajai Muasher, said the committee’s main achievements include pinpointing the main areas of corruption — such as wasta (using personal connections to obtain favours or posts), and financial and administrative graft — and gauging the procedures taken to address each area.

“This is a major step forward, and it will address many cases and provide adequate answers to citizens’ questions,” Muasher said

He said that the committee has concluded that there is no legal definition of corruption, noting that all definitions are now found in one reference, which makes it easier for courts to identify violations to the principles of integrity.

Committee member Abla Abu Olbeh described the committee’s work as of high quality, pointing out the results it reached on the national integrity matrix, which she called “an issue of concern to all citizens from different walks of life”.

She emphasised the importance of following up on the work of the committee, and that its results should be binding to all public institutions.

His Majesty had sent a letter to Ensour on December 8, 2012, tasking him with presiding over the committee entrusted to entrench justice, equality and rule of law, in addition to fighting corruption and enhancing both transparency and accountability — “the cornerstones of good governance, and the base of the reform process”, which, he said, is bolstered by a balanced, real partnership between all the institutions within the integrity matrix.

In his Letter of Designation to the incumbent government, the King said that the challenges the country faces require focusing on “major national issues, when they are being addressed in the government programme”. 

His Majesty wrote that the programme should be “strengthening and ensuring respect for the rule of law, and preserving security and public order… consolidating the principles of transparency, accountability, justice, meritocracy, equal opportunities, seriousness in fighting corruption, wasta and nepotism, and strengthening the national integrity system to restore citizens’ confidence in state institutions”.