The Tunisian president promises a big cleanup. Investigations of 20 senior officials will be carried out to find out whether or not they have enriched themselves illegally.
It looks a lot like one of the 12 labors of Hercules, the fifth of which was the cleaning of the Augean stables by diverting water from two rivers. In Tunisia, Kaïs Saïed will tackle corruption, which looks like the Augean stables.
According to Chawki Tabib, former president of the National Authority for the fight against corruption - since implicated in several cases - in 2018, the cost of corruption in Tunisia, if we include informal trade and smuggling, was “Estimated at 54% of GDP”.
If corruption in Tunisia is difficult to quantify, for its part, the World Bank affirmed in 2015 that, within the public service, it generated costs for Tunisian companies equivalent to 15% of their turnover.
From 460 businessmen to 20 managers
However, over the past ten years and despite the fall of the Trabelsi Empire, the political class has been as ineffective as it has lacked vision. While it was endemic under Ben Ali, corruption has remained pervasive since the 2011 Revolution.
While he had promised a "Penal reconciliation" for 460 businessmen who had "plundered the country", the President of the Tunisian Republic was slow to launch his operation with his own hands. Almost six months after taking full power, Kaïs Saïed now promises to deal with corruption within the state.
While neighboring Algeria has just signed the creation of a High Authority for transparency, prevention and the fight against corruption, this seems to have inspired the Tunisian head of state, who has announced that he wants to hold the personalities who have held positions of responsibility over the past twenty years to account. Objective: to find out whether these have been enriched illegally or not.
According to sources close to the Carthage palace, the Tunisian president already has in his hands a list of 20 former officials, both from the public service and from private companies. Jeune Afrique affirms that "the CEOs of public and private banks, state government officials, including ministers and governors, but also all the big names in the private sector" are concerned by these inquiries.
Can Kaïs Saïed count on the support of the judiciary?
What will happen to them? According to Tunisian media, Kaïs Saïed has decided to reverse the burden of proof. Indeed, it will be up to the personalities targeted by investigations to prove their innocence. Until the legality of the enrichment of these senior officials is proven, their assets will be frozen.
It remains to be seen what penalties will be imposed on those who have been found guilty of corruption. The president has already mentioned, when he wanted to attack 460 businessmen, his willingness to ask for promises of project funding in all delegations, especially the poorest, from offenders.
Another question that arises: how can Kaïs Saïed have personalities tried when he has expressed the wish to dissolve the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSM)? According to sources close to the presidency, this dissolution project could well fall apart in the days to come. In this case, the Tunisian president could count on the support of the judiciary.