Egypt's MPs voted on Sunday in favour of allowing an ad hoc parliamentary committee to begin investigating the country's top auditor Hisham Geneina's corruption claims soon, regardless of a media gag order imposed by the country's Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek.
A recent statement by chairman of the Central Auditing Agency (CAA) Hisham Geneina that corruption in public and government circles resulted in the loss of LE600 billion in state revenues between 2012 and 2015 triggered a new wave of attacks from MPs in Egypt's House of Representatives on Sunday.
Despite objections from parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel-Al, MPs launched scathing attacks against Prosecutor-General Sadek's decision on 20 January to impose a media gag order on the investigation of corruption allegations issued by Geneina.
MP's also attacked a letter sent by Sadek to Abdel-Al on Saturday, informing him that Geneina's claims are under a gag order.
Sadek's office announced that the gag order will remain in place until the investigation into the case is complete.
Sadek's decision came after Geneina's statement in December about corruption that caused shock waves in political and parliamentary circles. It prompted President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to order a fact-finding committee, which would include judicial and financial experts, to open an inquiry into the top auditor's claims.
In a report issued on 12 January, the committee accused Geneia of deliberately inflating figures about corruption in Egypt for political reasons and tarnishing the image of the country abroad.
MPs of Egypt's new parliament also opened fire on the top auditor, accusing him of acting on behalf of the ousted regime of Muslim Brotherhood, which, they said, is doing its best to "mislead the public and discredit the rule of president El-Sisi".
Following a brief debate on 17 January, 415 MPs voted in favour of forming an ad hoc committee to investigate Geneina's claims that more than LE600 billion of public funds in Egypt were misappropriated between 2012 and 2015.
However, the top prosecutor's decision to impose a media gag order on 20 January has left the parliamentary ad hoc committee in limbo.
On Sunday, MPs said a prosecution's investigation into Geneina's claims should not stand in the way of parliament also investigating the issue.
According to MP Adel Al-Sherif, "parliamentary deputies are the ones who are more keen than the judicial authority to express the will of the people and that the prosecutor's order in the Geneia case should not prevent legislators from exercising their supervisory powers."
MP Al-Sherif's words received quick backlash from speaker Abdel-Al who ordered that "they be removed from the session's minutes."
"The legislative and judicial authorities are working on equal footing and nobody can say that one is more keen than the other to express the people's will and that the two authorities can not exercise their powers in isolation from each other," said Abdel-Al.
Abdel-Al also announced that the prosecutor-general sent him a letter on Saturday, informing him that a media gag order was imposed on Geneina's statement on corruption in Egypt.
"For this reason, I propose that the formation of the parliamentary committee on Geneina's corruption claims be postponed to a later date and should only begin its work after the top prosecutor's investigation becomes complete and the gag is lifted," said Abdel-Al.
However, MPs lashed out at the top prosecutor's letter, insisting that the parliamentary committee should begin its work very soon. Upon putting the issue to a vote, 211 MPs were in favour of the committee performing its job soon, while three MPs abstained and 175 MPs objected.
Following the no-delay vote, Abdel-Al announced: "Let the committee be formed first and the house's office will inform MPs what the criterion upon which the committee will be formed."
Egypt's parliament will hold new plenary sittings on 13 February.
MPs also insisted that while the house is not in session, they should be informed every day with a press brief about the activities of its committees.
Abdel-Al said the house's secretariat-general will issue a daily brief on the progress achieved by a committee currently in charge of amending parliament's outdated bylaws and code of conduct to go in line with the constitution.
Also on Sunday, MPs voted down three requests submitted to lift the parliamentary immunity of three MPs. Abdel-Al indicated that the requests did not follow the correct constitutional procedures.
However, high-profile journalist and independent MP Abdel-Rehim Ali attacked Abdel-Al and secretary general Ahmed Saadeddin for opening the immunity requests for discussion.
"As long as these requests were not submitted by the prosecutor-general or the justice minister, they should not have been opened for debate in the first place," Ali said.
Joining forces with Ali, MP Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat said "parliament's new by-laws should dictate new procedures and immunity-lifting requests should be discussed."