A Palestinian legislative panel reported wide-ranging corruption in Yasser Arafat’s administration Tuesday - from misuse of foreign aid to bribes for car licenses - and urged he sack his entire Cabinet.
The panel called for three ministers to be tried. While its findings have no legal weight, they put Arafat on the spot - compelling him to either repudiate his political allies or face rising public anger over financial abuses.
The Palestinian leader quickly sought to cast the report in a positive light. Arafat’s spokesman, Marwan Kanafani, praised it and said it provides “a strong basis” for a Cabinet reshuffle that Arafat was already planning.
Yet lawmakers and some members of Arafat’s own administration faulted the panel for failing to examine Arafat’s role in any wrongdoing.
“The mismanagement starts from the top - way up on top,” declared Husam Khader, a legislator from Nablus.
Though not faulted personally, Arafat could be jeopardized by inaction over the report, which comes at a time of increased anger among Palestinians over brazen shows of wealth by government officials with huge villas and four or five cars apiece.
The investigating committee was formed in response to a state comptroller’s report that found $326 million of the Palestinian autonomy government’s $800 million annual budget had been squandered through corruption or mismanagement.
Among allegations in the panel’s 60-page report, read aloud Tuesday to the Palestinian Legislative Council:
Information and Culture Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo used $7,500 from the ministry budget to pay for central heating at his house.
Transportation Minister Ali Qawasmeh accepted bribes to license cars that did not meet road standards.
Civil Affairs Minister Jamal Tarifi gave illegal exemptions from customs duties for more than 4,300 cars - including a Jaguar for his father.
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