Egypt's parliament approved on Tuesday amendments to the law regulating the Administrative Watchdog Authority (AWA), which is in charge of fighting corruption.
MPs, who approved the law in principle on Monday evening, finally voted in favour of the new amendments in a plenary session on Tuesday morning.
Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal decided on Monday that the final approval of the law be postponed to Tuesday morning "because it needs the endorsement of two thirds of MPs."
Abdel-Aal said the new law represents a very progressive step in the country's battle against corruption.
"As you know, Egypt's position on the Transparency International's Perceptions of Corruption Index was very bad, but because the Administrative Watchdog Authority has done a great job fighting corruption in recent years, Egypt's position on this index has improved," said Abdel-Aal, adding that the new amendments “should step up the country's fight against corruption and improve its international position in this respect.”
Transparency International's Perceptions of Corruption Index ranks countries based on their “perceived level of corruption.”
In the 2016 report, Egypt ranked 108 out of 176 for perceived corruption.
Abdel-Aal deplored that the number of MPs available on Monday evening's session was not enough to give a final approval of the law. He said, however, that he is happy that the law received final approval by both majority and opposition MPs.
Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marawan also told MPs on Tuesday that "it is excellent that the first law approved by parliament at the beginning of its third session [for 2017/2018] is one aimed at fighting corruption."
"Parliament's approval of this newly-amended law should prove an effective weapon against all forms of corruption in this country," said Marawan, adding that "the law reflects the government's determination to wipe out corruption in administrative circles."
The law, approved by parliament's legislative and constitutional affairs committee on Sunday, aims to amend the law (law no.54/1964) to go in line with Egypt's 2014 constitution and UN agreements on combating corruption and fighting graft crimes.
Bahaaeddin Abu Shoqa, the head of the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, told MPs that the draft amendments were revised by the State Council's Department of Legislation.
"This revision was necessary to ensure that the draft amendments go in line with the constitution and Egypt's approval of relevant international conventions in 2008," said Abu Shoqa, adding that "it is high time for this draft law to be passed because this reflects a popular demand and in order to step up the war against corruption in government and administrative circles."
Osama Abu Magd, the spokesperson of the Future of a Homeland party, said the new law reflects a strong political will to fight corruption.
"We all remember how the president [Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi] ordered the AWA chairman [Mohamed Erfan] two months ago to make sure that the AWA does everything possible to fight corruption and ensure that national projects are implemented in a transparent way," said Abu Magd.
A report prepared by the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee said the draft law seeks to amend five articles.
"Article 1 states that the ACA is a supervisory authority is affiliated with the president of the republic in line with Article 214 of the constitution, having administrative, technical, and financial independence," the report said.
The report also said that Article 5 of the law will be amended to oblige the ACA to submit an annual report to the president of the republic, parliament, and cabinet.
"This goes in line with Article 217 of the constitution, which also states that the ACA's report should cover its performance through the year in terms of fighting all forms of corruption and graft and submit recommendations in this field," said the report.
The report added that the new law obliges the ACA to coordinate with other watchdog institutions such as the Central Auditing Agency to forge a new anti-corruption strategy and improve the values of transparency and integrity in line with Article 218 of the constitution.
The report said the amendments give the president the right to name the ACA's chairman, deputy chairman and board members only after parliament's approval in line with Article 216 of the constitution.
The report added that the amendments also give the AWA the power to refer certain corruption cases to the Administrative Prosecution and the Prosecutor General for investigation “if initial information indicates that there is corruption in a certain sector.”
Abu Shoqa said the ACA has uncovered a number of high-profile corruption cases in recent years.
"The amendments give the ACA more powers to tighten control on corruption and help the government's 2014 National Anti-Corruption Committee fight nepotism and reinforce accountability in government circles," said Abu Shoqa, adding that "we hope the ACA exercising a more active role in combating graft will help improve Egypt's position on Transparency International's Perceptions of Corruption Index."