Egypt's parliament ‎votes for investigation into top auditor corruption ‎claims despite media gag

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 7 Feb 2016

In a parliamentary sitting on Sunday, MPs attacked Egypt prosecutor-‎general's decision to impose a gag order that bars ‎media from discussing the country's top auditor's ‎figures about corruption in Egypt

Egyptian parliament (Reuters)
Egyptian parliament (Reuters)

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."‎
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