Controversy continues to surround the dismissal of top adviser Hisham Geneina, former head of the Central Auditing Organisation (CAO), after Egypt’s presidency declared the termination of his term on Monday night.
A few opposition figures, such as lawyer Khaled Ali and writer Alaa Al-Aswany, condemned the decision. CAO Deputy Head Hisham Badawy was appointed as a replacement.
Geneina’s expulsion came within a few hours of a public statement made by the State Security Prosecution authorities to local TV Monday night, in which it officially accused him of making false claims regarding the value of money lost due to state corruption, which Geneina estimated at EGP 600bn in 2015
The prosecution said Geneina’s calculation of the incidents of corruption had been inaccurate, adding that “it was not within the CAO’s authority to investigate corruption in the first place”.
The prosecution further accused Geneina of abuse of power by collecting and keeping important information and documents on corruption.
“All of it was merely accusations, but the dismissal order carries doubts as to the legal grounds it used to be passed,” said Walaa Gad, manager of the independent Partners for Transparency, an NGO working to fight corruption.
In comments to Daily News Egypt Tuesday, Gad said that if Geneina had failed any of the requirements to continue in his position, it should have been officially established by the judicial authority, meaning through a final court verdict.
“However, we did not see Geneina being investigated nor put to trial,” Gad explained. “Moreover, the context under which the decree was issued was in the absence of a parliament, which is not the case anymore,” he said.
The parliament was also handed a copy of Geneina’s report and was tasked to compare it with the report issued by the presidential committee. However, the parliament dropped the case, leaving it in the hands of prosecution authorities.
MPs Moahamed Anwar Sadat and Alaa Abdul Moneim spoke to a local TV channel Monday, claiming that the parliament should have investigated corruption claims of both reports as part of its monitoring role, and denying allegations that the work of the parliament could have interfered with ongoing investigations.
Likewise, Gad believes the parliament should not have dismissed reports on corruption, as dictated by its monitoring role. Gad further criticised what he referred to as “the prosecution’s out-of-place comments” on the lack of jurisdiction of the CAO in addressing corruption.
“The CAO is concerned with monitoring the management of public funds and ensuring public expenditure respects the law,” he added, explaining that the CAO does not have the means to cover other areas of corruption and therefore cannot make general claims about the amount of corruption in Egypt.
Ever since Geneina made estimates of numbers during an interview with Al-Youm Al-Sabaa newspaper in December 2015, the state has countered his claims.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who denied the figures, formed a fact-finding committee headed by the head of the Administrative Control Authority (ACA) to examine what was communicated to the press and present its own corruption report to the “public opinion”.
Al-Sisi issued a decree in July 2015, giving him the power to dismiss, replace and appoint heads of regulatory bodies, despite the constitution guaranteeing their independence from the state’s executive branch.
According to the decree, the circumstances for dismissal include cases where evidence is found that the individuals compromised national security, loss of confidence, breach of duties leading to damage of the higher interests of the country or [damage] the standing of a public official, and finally, health conditions that would prevent them from fulfilling their assigned tasks.
The decree came under wide criticism, as some viewed it as contradictory to the principles of independence of those bodies, as regulated by the constitution.
Article 216 of the constitution stipulates that the formation of each individual autonomous organisation or regulatory agency shall be enacted by a law defining its tasks and regulations, and guarantees its independence, the necessary protection for its members, and their employment conditions in a way that ensures their neutrality and independence.
It further states: “The president of the republic shall appoint the heads of such organisations and regulatory agencies upon the approval of the House of Representatives by a majority of its members, for a one-time renewable term of four years. They shall not be dismissed, except in the cases stated in the law.”
Moreover, Article 125 of the constitution states that the CAO is an important contributor to the annual state budget plans and that “the House of Representatives has the right to request any additional data or reports from the CAO”.
A number of politicians had warned of the consequences of the new law, saying that Egypt could face unmitigated corruption as a result, which was one of the main driving forces of the revolution of 2011.
Amid ongoing complaints by NGOs from the lack of freedom and space to operate, Gad is convinced the decision to dismiss Geneina is a negative message to civil society workers.
“If the state did this to the highest head of the biggest anti-corruption entity, how will it deal with NGOs working on the matter?” Gad said, as Partners for Transparency recently completed a training workshop for researchers, under the title “Research approaches to develop anti- corruption legislations and promote economic and social rights”.
Gad repeated that even if Geneina had made misplaced statements or had dishonest political motives, he should have been properly investigated.
Neither Geneina nor his defence lawyer could be reached for comment.