Transparency International‘s 2009 index which measures the perceived level of public-sector corruption ranked Algeria at the 111th position. Algeria’s ranking was 92nd in 2008 and 99th in 2007. Another report ranked Algeria at the 92nd position over 180 countries.
This relative position can be discussed but there is no doubt that the level of corruption in Algeria is sky-rocketing and the situation is not improving at all. Cases of corruption are countless and almost everyday brings up a new one. The biggest in the recent weeks was the corruption around the East-West highway project. Many high ranked civil and military officials are involved and the judiciary system is still investigating. We can also mention the cases of Eriad and the different scandals around many public banks. The case of the former APN president is important too and made some noise in Algeria though all Amar Saidani lost was his public appearances but he is still enjoying a free life. 2006 broke the news of the Sonatrach-BRC scandal. And we can go on and on mentioning the biggest known cases of corruption.
Not to forget the other cases of corruption which happen at lower levels, in the wilayas around the walis (many walis are appointed to another wilayas leaving scandals behind them) or at the level of the APCs. The students in universities, the new graduates who take exams to get jobs, hospitals staffs and patients, all of them face corruption in a way or another.
It is indeed a generalised behaviour and many people try to get some illegal benefit out of their positions, and this is not restricted to the public institutions.
Corruption is not only about bribery but also about abusing of public goods and trust, bureaucracy, injustice, etc. and fighting against corruption means fighting against all these aspects.
Algeria knows that corruption is a threat to its economic development (but not only) and fighting it is mandatory to reach the advertised for good governance. Zeroual launched a clean hands campaign during the 1996/1997 period and created an Observatory to fight against the corruption but the effort was not sustained enough to reach the desired (?) goals.
Bouteflika also pushed to fight against corruption by proposing a law in 2006 and a commission (another one) was created but we didn’t see a sign of its activity. More recently, Bouteflika mentioned this topic in his speech before the Supreme Court and declared that he’s decided to fight fiercely against all the forms of corruption. Three days ago, El-Fadjr newspaper announced that the 2006’s commission will finally be implemented in the field this year and will be independent under the President’s authority.
At the same time, the Algerian government prevented the Algerian branch of Transparency International from taking part in the International Conference against corruption which took place in Qatar in November 2009.
I am personally not optimistic and think it will be just another commission of people who will be paid to do nothing or, worse, to take part in the corruption process. Bureaucracy and all the people inside the system who have interests in corruption will not make the task easy. And how would I trust them knowing how the different elections’ candidates are selected and elected. And regardless of the high spheres corruption, we have a problem of education at the individual level and average Joe thinks it is normal to give or take bribery, and to use one’s position to get personal benefits. This is not something a thousand commissions could fix.