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"Corruption, as defined by the World Bank, is a form of dishonesty or criminal offense undertaken by a person or organization entrusted with a position of authority, to acquire illicit benefit or abuse power for one's private gain." -- Wikipedia

"As a general rule, governments that are accountable to free parliaments, a free press, and civil society organizations provide economic welfare efficiently and at low levels of corruption. Governments unrestrained by such institutions are typically characterized by low levels of economic welfare and by high levels of corruption." -- Hamas: A Social Welfare Government or War Machine?

What checks to corruption (if any) are there in the Palestinian Authority, and how effective are they?

(Parallel question about Hamas)

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    This is definitely two questions! The PA and Hamas are two different entities and corruption is handled completely differently. The PA is mostly funded by external entities - EU donations and Palestinian tax money collected by Israel - which gives them oversight over how the PA spends it money. Hamas, however, collects its own taxes from the Gazans and receives funding from individuals and sometimes also states. Its funding is not subject to external audits like the PA's is. May 23 at 22:12
  • @BjörnLindqvist I'll split the questions then. But I would also like to know how effective that oversight is; can I incorporate it into the PA question?
    – Zev Spitz
    May 23 at 22:14
  • Again, as with your other question, what checks are you asking about? Are you asking about how the PA investigates and punishes corruption (however unsuccessfully)?
    – divibisan
    May 24 at 3:06
  • Also, I really don’t get the point of the quote you lead with, particularly since the book seems to be about Hamas, but the question then asks about the Fatah controlled PA
    – divibisan
    May 24 at 3:07
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    Am confused why you inserted quotes about corurption? May 26 at 5:14
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+100

Let's begin with defining what the Palestinian National Authority (PA) is.

Palestinian National Authority

The PA is a governing body established by Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the mid-90s as a consequence of the Oslo agreements. The point was to allow the Palestinians living under occupation limited self-governance. Previously, the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) had been governed by an Israeli military government called the the Israeli Civil Administration. The idea was that the PA would assume more and more governing responsibilities, morph into a proto-state administration, and that the occupation eventually would come to an end. That never happened and the PA is today essentially the same institution that it was in 1994.

Following the ouster of Fatah from the Gaza strip in 2006, the PA de facto only exercises control over the area A and B "islands" in the West Bank. Although it continues to pay the salaries of public servants that work in Gaza.

About two-thirds of the PA's income comes from Palestinian tax revenue and one third from donor countries. Israel collects the taxes on behalf of the PA and transfers it to the organization. During conflicts Israel has sometimes withheld the funds to punish the PA. PA. Hence any embezzlement of tax funds before they reach the PA is on Israel. This is a major difference between how the PA and Hamas operates - the latter collects its own taxes.

Some of the largest donors to the PA are the EU countries. They fund the PA through a system called PEGASE. Member countries pool their donations and then the PA requests funding through PEGASE. The PA uses the funds for payroll, welfare, and various projects. Payroll means that the EU subsidizes salaries, welfare is for needy Palestinian families (like social security in the US), and projects are for things like building schools and hospitals. More on PEGASE below.

Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission

The Palestinian governmental body that investigates corruption is the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), founded in 2005 as the Anti-Graft Commission. It publishes annual reports, some of which you can find here:

They are in Arabic so I can't read them. The PACC also publishes thematic reports in English:

It has also begun publishing monthly reports, summarizing complaints received that month. For example, from the PACCs report for December, 2020:

The report stated that the Commissioner of PACC Prof. Ahmad al-Barak referred during December 12 files to the corruption crimes prosecution (after the corruption suspicious is proven against the complainants or reported), while the Commission received in the same month 87 complaints and reports, and 80 complaints and reports were finalized.

The crime of misuse of office had the biggest share of the total number of the received complaints and reports during the previous month. The complaints and reports were divided in accordance with the crime as the following: 68 against misuse of office, 7 against favoritism and nepotism, 4 against compromising the public funds, 2 against complacency in carrying out public office, 1 against breach of trust, 1 against embezzlement, 1 against bribery, 1 against false documents.

PACC MEDIA MONTHLY REPORT ON THE COMMISSION'S ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS DECEMBER 2020

(I suspect that the text is Google-translated because some of the grammar seems off to me.)

The report even describes how the PACC received the complaints:

The Commission received 20 complaints and reports through personal delivery, 46 were received through the smartphones application, 5 through the official correspondences from public institutions, charities, municipalities or any other body, 1 through email, 5 through fax, 7 through electronic detection, 3 through Facebook.

I'm not sure what "personal delivery" means. Does it refer to this web form on the PACCs site or face-to-face meetings?

Simple extrapolation suggests that if the PACC handled 87 complaints in December then the annual number of complaints should be about 1 000.

I have not seen any evaluation of the PACC so I cannot tell whether it is effective or not.

AMAN: Coalition for Integrity

AMAN: Coalition for Integrity is the Palestinian chapter of Transparency International - an association of non-governmental organizations fighting corruption. You can find some of their annual reports here (along with summaries in video format):

You asked about checks against corruption so I will cite some checks highlighted by the reports that are relevant to the PA. The reports also discuss corruption in the Palestinian private sector which is beyond the scope of your question:

Promoting integrity in public facilities The issuance of the Decree-Law No. 32 of 2020 regarding the participation of public officials on the boards of directors of institutions. This decision is considered a step that will contribute to the promotion of integrity and is in line with the requirements of good governance practices. ...

Implementation of the General Procurement Law Increase in the use of the unified public purchase portal website (shiraa.gov.ps) including publishing of purchases’ processes. In this regard, the number of public institutions with an account on the portal reached approximately 136 bodies who use this portal to announce their bids.

The State of Integrity and Combating Corruption in Palestine in 2020

Procurement is one area often fraught with corruption and kickbacks. The use of a public purchasing portal apparently could reduce corruption.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) refers corruption files for the second consecutive year The high number of corruption files referred from the ACC to the public prosecutor’s office for the second consecutive year is due to two main factors: the increased citizens’ expectations of a more effective policy than before, and the Commission’s openness to the public symbolized by its policies that aim to encourage reporting through all means including on-line reporting. This was reflected in the number of complaints and reports received in a single year since the establishment of the ACC in 2005, which amounted to 1,115 complaints.

AMAN thus describes the high number of complaints received by the PACC as something positive.

Second: Challenges hindering anti-corruption Poor integrity of governance due to the ineffective role of public institutions in decision-making; centralized policy making (i.e., decisions are concentrated in the hands of few individuals); weak rule of law; decline of public confidence in the role and integrity of the judiciary, all of which affected the integrity in governance. ...

Appointments and promotions in the public sector continued to take place despite the President’s decision to stop it as part of the rationalization and austerity plan on public expenditures. In this regard, appointments to senior and special posts continued without respecting the principle of equal opportunities, or announcements for job vacancies.

The unemployment rate in the OPT is about 25% and the PA is the largest employer.

Studies

The above sections explain what some of the anti-corruption checks in the PA are. Here are some studies on the topic of their effectiveness:

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is one of the best-known cases in which corruption impedes economic and political development, thus troubling the state-building process. ... The model was subsequently used for comparing the PA’s predicted and observed levels of corruption for the years 1998-2008. In all years other than 2004, the PA showed higher levels of corruption than predicted by the model. Divergence was relatively low with an average of 0.65 units of standard deviation below the regression line. Particularities of the Palestinian case, which are exogenous to the model, were sought for explaining the PA’s higher than predicted level of corruption. Suggested explanations include the conflict with Israel, lack of territorial integrity, the Fatah-Hamas rivalry, weakness of the legislative branch, lack of sovereignty, and the rapid social changes undergone by Palestinian society.

The Occupation Corrupts? Quantitative Analysis of Corruption in the Palestinian Authority

The above quote is from a 2010 Master's thesis. I don't know how much stock one should put in its conclusions.

The European Court of Auditors audits PEGASE annually or biannually. Some of their audits I've found using Google:

According to these audits, the amount of corruption in the PEGASE system is low:

The EEAS and the Commission welcome today's report from the Court of Auditors on the EU Direct Financial Support to the Palestinian Authority (PA) through the PEGASE Mechanism. They welcome in particular the Court's conclusion that the Commission and EEAS have succeeded in implementing this support in spite of difficult circumstances and that there is no evidence of corruption or mismanagement.

EU Direct Financial Support to the Palestinian Authority (December 11, 2013)

For details on PEGASE, see my answer to the question What is the operational chain (in details?) of transferring donations to the Palestinians?. For a literature review from 2012 on corruption in Palestine, see Literature review of corruption and anti-corruption in Palestine .

Unfortunately, I cannot find much information on the effectiveness of the PA's anti-corruption work. The question is not whether there is corruption in the PA or not, clearly there is - like there is in every public government. The question is whether the level of corruption is higher or lower than it "should" be. But, given the uniqueness of the PA's situation, what "should" it be? Furthermore, the effectiveness of the anti-corruption work ought to be measured by whether the corruption is decreasing or increasing. If it is decreasing, then it is effective, otherwise it isn't. Thus, one should measure the amount of corruption in the PA over time.

Here is data I compiled myself from Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer. It asks respondents if they have paid a bribe in the last year. The Barometer began surveying Palestine in 2010. Percentage of respondents answering yes for Palestine and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa region are:

Country 2010 2013 2016 2019
Algeria n/a 41 14 n/a
Egypt n/a 36 50 n/a
Israel 4 12 n/a n/a
Jordan n/a 37 4 4
Lebanon 34 n/a 28 41
Morocco 35 49 48 31
Palestine 53 12 13 17
Tunisia n/a 18 9 18
Yemen 66 74 77 n/a

As seen, the numbers are all over the place for some countries. I suspect this is due to methodological errors; perhaps the question was phrased differently in different editions of the Barometer, perhaps the interviewer didn't speak Arabic that well, perhaps the survey moved from phone interviews to web forms, etc.

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    Thank you for an extremely complete, detailed and informative answer. A few points: (1) "continues to the salaries" seems to be a typo. (2) I'm curious the extent of embezzlement on the Israeli side; but that may be a new question. (3) What do you think "electronic detection" means? (4) Do you have any specific explanationn for the precipitous drop in the Barometer value between 2010 and 2013? Or the relatively slight rise between 2016 and 2019?
    – Zev Spitz
    May 27 at 20:45
  • (5) This study on crony capitalism in the PA from 2019 may also be relevant, although you might consider that corruption in the private sector, but it inevitably spills over into government.
    – Zev Spitz
    May 27 at 20:45
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    @ZevSpitz 1) Fixed 2) I think so. See page 95 of AMAN's 2019 report which accuses Israel of stealing funds. 3) Google translate error/poor English 4) Updated answer 5) The article is relevant, but more about Palestinian society as a whole than about the PA. I tried to focus on the checks against corruption since that's what you mentioned. May 29 at 14:19
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Ironically, Hamas is one of the checks against PA corruption -- it's currently preventing Egypt from distributing aid via the PA because of corruption concerns:

"The Palestinian Authority cannot be trusted with the reconstruction funds, and it does not want to help the Gaza Strip," said Palestinian political analyst Eyad al-Qarra. "The Palestinian Authority exists to suck the blood of the Palestinian people on the economic level, and it wants to benefit and revive its budget at the expense of the suffering of our people."

Eyad al-Qarra is described as being close to Hamas, and presumably representing their views at least in part.

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