Morocco: An Ally to Rely On – Katherine Kinnaird
By Katherine Kinnaird
June 26, 2015
During this time of tremendous global conflict and instability, it has never been more important for governments to establish and maintain relationships with reliable allies committed to meaningful reform. Morocco has long demonstrated its reliability and commitment to reform by taking concrete steps to root out corruption from its government and education systems. Since January, the Kingdom has employed new measures to build momentum in its quest for a non-corrupt government. Morocco’s clear commitment to tackling such a complex and difficult issue should come as a relief to Western nations, like the United States, who rely on Morocco as a key ally in their engagement with North Africa and the Middle East.
Morocco’s long-term efforts to combat corruption paid off in January, when the Kingdom learned that it advanced 11 spots on Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, ranking 80th out of 175 countries. At a forum in Rabat on December 29th, Abdesselam Aboudrar, president of the Central Authority for the Prevention of Corruption (ICPC), an independent body charged with monitoring, education, and implementation of anti-corruption measures, announced a new plan for Morocco to continue its upward progression. The new approach is currently under review, but it will likely include laws to reduce corruption during election campaigns and create public education initiatives about corruption. Public Sector Minister Mohamed Moubdii lauded the new approach for fostering transparency, equal opportunity, and corruption prevention, emphasizing that the program is a huge step forward for Morocco.
Morocco is also working to combat corruption in business, as demonstrated by its decision to host the first Engineering Symposium for Africa in Marrakech on May 21, which paid special attention to the issue of corruption. Participants acknowledged that tackling corruption is a joint effort. Andrew Kremer, executive vice president of the US-based Jacobs Engineering Group, said the best way to deal with corruption is through “collective action,” including written agreements between partners. Hicham Kabbaj, deputy general manager for business development at Jacobs Engineering SA (JESA), a joint engineering venture between Jacobs Engineering Group and OCP Corporate aiming to support engineering and management projects in Morocco, agreed, asking for “clear roles from the start” so that everyone is “aware of the consequences” of corruption and dishonesty.
The Moroccan Ministry of Justice further advanced government transparency this week by launching a hotline number for members of the public to report all cases of bribery and corruption. Minister of Justice Mustafa Ramid extolled the hotline as a way of making legislative bodies and courts more accessible to the public – an important component in the fight against corruption. The hotline safeguards the identities of callers and their families and directly transfers all reports to judges for further evaluation. In the long run, the hotline could have a spiral effect on Morocco. By allowing the public to participate in discussions about corruption, the government is giving people a stake in society which, in turn, will foster development and prevent radicalism from taking hold in the Kingdom.
In addition to creating the hotline, the Ministry of Justice is also spearheading a media campaign to educate the public about the hotline and has released a Smartphone app for Android phones. The app will allow the public to access data, file reports, and request criminal records. The Ministry of Justice plans to distribute flyers in courts and broadcast commercials on the radio and national television to raise public awareness about the importance of reporting bribery and corruption.
Morocco is committed to instilling this same sense of vigilance against bribery and corruption in future generations, particularly by targeting cheating and dishonesty in its education system. As of June 9, the Moroccan parliament is discussing a new law that will penalize students who cheat on national examinations. In preparation for the baccalaureate exam, the Ministry of National Education stationed police units at testing centers and launched a campaign to spread awareness about the harms of cheating. It also equipped teachers with tools to detect portable electronic devices. When some of the exam answers were later leaked via social media, authorities took action and ordered all students to re-take the mathematics portion of the test.
Morocco has taken and continues to take concrete steps to root out corruption in its government and education systems and from society as a whole. Although there are still challenges in completely rooting out corruption, it is important to remember that reforming corruption and bribery is an ongoing process – and a societal one at that. The fact that Morocco is taking such vocal, transparent steps to improve and develop – while constantly empowering the public to participate in the process – says a great deal about the Kingdom’s values, priorities, and commitment to development. The United States will need honest, transparent allies like Morocco as it continues its involvement in North Africa and the Middle East.