Transitions

Libya takes steps to fight corruption

Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) is debating the newly introduced transparency and anti-corruption bill which they expect to vote on in the next few weeks. The Libyan government, led by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, is taking practical steps toward fighting corruption and improving transparency in public institutions, following alarming reports of rampant corruption and financial ...

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images
MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images

Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) is debating the newly introduced transparency and anti-corruption bill which they expect to vote on in the next few weeks. The Libyan government, led by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, is taking practical steps toward fighting corruption and improving transparency in public institutions, following alarming reports of rampant corruption and financial waste in the public sector. These steps are also driven by huge public demand for immediate anti-corruption measures and transparency in post-revolution Libya. 

On February 7, the government announced the National Identification Numbers (NID) project. By giving each person a unique number, the government will be able make sure that transfers and payments are going to the right people and avoid manipulations to the system. The General National Congress (GNC) is completing a program originally launched under the Qaddafi regime to issue identification numbers for all citizens that will be hosted on a central database and used to both record information and distribute benefits to citizens. 

The transitional authorities have made the NID program a priority due to reports that the payroll system is flooded with duplicate and imaginary workers who are receiving salaries from the Libyan government. Thousands of ghost workers have been found since the NID project completed its data capture exercise. One "individual" was even found to be receiving more than 60 pay checks from the government. Without a central database, there is no way to easily check and verify employment records. Government officials have also hinted that abuse of the existing system happens from within. 

The corruption of the state payroll would explain why the salaries category accounted for the second largest portion of the 2012 budget after infrastructure and development projects. In the 2013 budget, salary expenditures surged forward to be the number one item, making up 31 percent of the 66.86 billion LD budget. 

Libya’s inflated expenses have caught the attention of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is urging the government to contain current expenditures in the 2013 budget and advising further steps to contain salary increases and the number of public employees (as well as streamlining generalized subsidies). The GNC is taking these concerns seriously. It has stipulated that the 2013 budget proposal should mandate that all government transactions to employees be processed through the NID system. 

So far, more than 80 percent of Libyans have been incorporated into the NID system. The plan is to start rolling out the NID by the end of August. In addition to fighting corruption, the system is also being put forth to support drivers licenses, e-passports, and supporting national security at the borders. 

Still, there are widespread worries that the NID number system is being rushed by the current government to satisfy critics railing against rampant corruption. It is a complicated system and needs to be implemented properly. There are concerns that the former regime launched the NID program for security reasons and to tighten its grip on the citizens. There are also worries that the government did not do enough to address these concerns and ensure measures are put in place to protect citizens’ right to privacy. 

I’m sure that any kinks will be ironed out over time. But there’s still the lingering question of all those duplicate salaries and ghost workers: Who, precisely, has been receiving all that money over the years? 

Mohamed Eljarh is the Libya blogger for Transitions. Read the rest of his post here

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