Defense-related corruption ‘pervasive’ in Arab Spring countries: study

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The Arab Spring has cracked open state institutions to civilian oversight in many affected countries across the Middle East and North Africa, but defense and military organs remained defiant to transparency and democratic changes taking place across the region, according to a new report.

Transparency International UK’s Defense and Security Program has released a new study pointing to rampant corruption within the military establishments in several Arab Spring countries.

The report studied 19 countries in the Arab world and assessed the high risk of corruption. Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen are found to be at high risk of corruption in the defense sector. These countries excluding Algeria have had changed or still uprising to change their governments into democratic governments.

“The region has several key problems: excessive secrecy, lack of oversight, and lack of citizen engagement,” according to the report.

“Eighteen of the 19 countries assessed in the region don’t have a legislative committee to scrutinize the defense budget, or, if it exists, it receives only partial information and has few powers,” the report added.

The study pointed out to family networks and business ties as well as limitations on public debates as presenting obstacles for accountability in the defense establishments in the Arab world.

“Not one of the countries has a credible or safe ‘whistleblowing’ system through which concerned officers and defense officials can report suspected corruption,” the study found.

Transparency International’s director Mark Pyman said military spending in the region averaged $100 billion a year over the last five years. He added: “Our study suggests that the corruption problem is pervasive in defense, with a significant proportion of this spending at risk. Worse, high levels of defense corruption lead to impunity and public mistrust.”

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