PROGRAMS AND EVENTS
Remarks by the Deputy Chief of Mission at the SNAAC Peer Learning & Mentoring Program
Movenpick Hotel – Sana’a, Yemen
Saturday, January 7, 2012 – 10am
Thank you, all for inviting me to be with you here today. And thank you to all the employees and managers in the High Tender Board and the Central Organization for Control and Auditing for devoting your time to this training, and for your commitment to increasing transparency and eliminating corruption in government.
I would like especially to thank fthe Chairman of the Supreme National Association for Combating Corruption—the SNACC—Mr. Ahmed Mohammed Al Anisi for your partnership with us in programs like this one.
Today, January 7, we stand 45 days since the GCC Initiative was signed in Riyadh, and 45 days until the early presidential elections which mark the end of the first phase of transition called for in that Initiative.
Much has been accomplished in that time. A new National Consensus Government has been formed. A work plan to address Yemen’s deep social and economic challenges has been presented to Parliament. Preparations for the presidential elections are proceeding apace. And, perhaps most importantly, a Military and Security Committee has been formed and is making truly expeditious progress toward demilitarizing Sana’a, Taiz, and other cities in Yemen.
All of this is a credit to Vice President Abo Rabo Mansur Hadi, Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa, the members of the National Consensus Government, and the members of the Military and Security Committee—who have shown excellent leadership under very difficult circumstances.
Yet, I’m sure those same leaders would be the first to agree that the most difficult challenges lie ahead for Yemen. Reestablishment of essential public services such as electricity, water, and the distribution of fuel are immediate needs. Following the February elections, Yemen will enter a period of National Dialogue and Constitutional Reform in which the voices of youth, Southerners, women, and workers must be well represented and heard. And then, Yemen must address the deep economic weaknesses and social fissures that stand between us now and the promise of a prosperous future that all Yemenis deserve.
No serious government reform effort can proceed without tackling the fundamental problem of corruption in the bureaucracy.
Corruption is a scourge. Corruption stunts economic growth. It damages confidence in the fairness of public institutions. Corruption fosters a culture of graft and impunity. It undermines the ability of all citizens to equally access government services, and undermines the ability of government to provide those services equally to all citizens, which is any good government’s pledge.
The training that begins today is a good first step. However, in the next phase of transition, the National Consensus Government must address the problem of corruption head-on—and I believe they are committed to the task.
Dealing with this key issue requires a comprehensive approach that includes:
• The strengthening of public institutions—like the SNACC—for identifying, investigatng, and prosecuting corruption in government,
• The development of clear and strong public accountability laws that include tough penalties for violators,
• The creation of codes of ethics that regulate the behavior of political leaders and legislators who serve in positions of high public trust,
• Increasing transparency for government operations, including published budgets and records on expenditures at all levels of government, and
• The free ability of the news media and civil society organizations to investigate and publish allegations of corruption in government, within the guidelines of journalistic standards and ethics.
This last point is particularly important. The press and civil society play a critical role in the process. In my own country, the United States, there are numerous examples through history of investigative reporters or citizen groups uncovering and calling public attention to the corrupt practices of particular politicians or government employees.
Journalists and citizen groups have enormous power in this regard, to remove corrupt officials and to set a course for major changes in government policy. However, this role must be executed responsibly. Such efforts should be channeled through public institutions established for that purpose and should not be used to impede the ability of government to carry out its mission of public service.
In Yemen, the SNACC is a vital and indispensable institution for guarding against corruption in government. During the transition period, the SNACC’s role will become even more critical, both in addressing the allegations of corruption now rising from the public, and also in partnering with civil society and the National Consensus Government to create new standards for government transparency and anti-corruption legislation.
I am pleased, on behalf of the United States, to partner with the SNACC in offering this training today and to support the SNACC, the National Consensus Government, and the Ministries represented here today in their efforts toward making a transparent, corruption-free government a reality for Yemen.