The third way in Egypt

and openly indicates the “lack of resolve to introduce effective practices to curb the problem [of corruption].” In fact, Christiaan Poortman, director of Global Programs of Transparency International, has explicitly stated that “the key obstacle [to combat corruption in Egypt] is unchecked executive power which overrides attempts to introduce the kinds of checks and balances that put integrity and accountability at the head of good governance.” The report concludes that rampant corruption in Egypt (along with Morocco, Palestine, and Lebanon) poses challenges for development and accountability. On the positive note, the report indicates certain measures which were adopted, including enacting laws in Palestine, to strength the independence of the judiciary in Lebanon and measures in Morocco to prevent corruption. Even in this group, Egypt was not mentioned as taking meaningful steps toward the abatement of corruption (except establishment of Transparency and Integrity Committee).

Democracy in Egypt cannot develop without a systematic effort to contain generational corruption. To combat its rampant corruption, Egypt must, at the minimum, adopt the following measures:

  • The interim government of Egypt should introduce legislation concerning protection of the whistle-blowers and freedom of information.
  • The interim government should work toward strengthening the independence of the judiciary, particularly those courts that deal with financial issues, land rights, governmental contracts, and contractual awards to private parties.
  • The interim government should protect the freedom of individuals and press to engage in public affairs in general and probe public financial transactions in particular.
  • The Egyptian Parliament should provide independent public oversight bodies (with functions similar to General Accounting Office in the United States).
  • The interim government should introduce measures which would prohibit conflict of interest to high-level public office holders and their immediate family members.
  • The rules concerning public tenders should be changed to prevent collusion, conspiracy and predatory price fixing.
  • The interim government should invite to Egypt Transparency International or other public anti-corruption organizations and seek their advice in providing anti-corruption measures suitable to Egypt.

Further, the U.S, government, to the extent possible, should through General Accounting Office (GAO) and other public agencies work closely with Egyptian institutions to review the procedure through which the American financial aid to Egypt – military and civilian – is taking place.

As is the case with Taliban, the appeal of the Muslim Brotherhood to the millions of the impoverished is mainly on its call for “war against corruption” and promise of “equal” distribution of wealth. The post-Mubarak interim government of Egypt should immediately start a systematic anti-corruption policy. Containment of corruption will preempt the attraction of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In short, what we saw in Egypt in the last two weeks was a public cry to get an effective and meaningful support for the struggle against the Mubarak regime. We should respond to such calls decisively. As David Brook writes, “the road from authoritarianism to democracy is rocky and perilous.” The United States, however, should not retreat from its resolve to respond to Egypt’s call for democracy.

John Changiz Vafai served in the pre-revolution government of Iran as General Counsel to National Iranian Oil Company and Professor of Law in Tehran University. He is currently of-Counsel to the law firm of Lally & Misir in New York.