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Tunisia: Ratification of African Union Anti-corruption Convention Follows on Recent Anti-corruption Reforms

(Apr. 6, 2020) On February 10, 2020, Tunisia’s secretary of state for foreign affairs, Sabri Bash Tabaji, deposited documents of ratification of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. The ratification, according to Tabaji, is an important step toward strengthening the collaboration with the African Union and African states in the fight against corruption.

Some of the main principles of the Convention are promoting the establishment of democratic institutions, the rule of law, good governance, and the implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Moreover, the Convention aims to advance transparency and accountability in the field of public affairs administration to attain a balance of social justice and economic development in African societies.

Tunisia’s Recent Anti-corruption Reforms

Constitution of Tunisia

Tunisia’s ratification of the Convention follows on the adoption of several previous measures to prevent and combat corruption in the country. The first step was contained in Tunisia’s new Constitution, which was approved and officially adopted by the Parliament on January 27, 2014. Article 130 of the Constitution discusses the role of the Good Governance and Anti-corruption Commission, providing that it be composed of “independent, impartial, competent members, with integrity” who serve for a single six-year term, with one-third of the members being replaced every two years.

Article 130 establishes the Commission’s mandate to implement, disseminate, and follow up on good governance and anti-corruption policies; promote a culture of good governance; and “[consolidate] the principles of transparency, integrity, and accountability” in the society. The Commission is also responsible for monitoring corruption cases in the public and private sectors, carrying out investigations into these cases, and referring them to the competent authorities.

Article 130 also states that the Commission “must be consulted on draft laws related to its area of competence” and “can give its opinion on regulatory texts related to its area of competence.”

Law No. 46 of August 1, 2018

The principal anti-corruption legislation in Tunisia is Law No. 46 on the Declaration of Earnings and Interest and Combating Illicit Enrichment and Conflicts of Interest. This law aims to support transparency; establish principles of integrity, impartiality, and accountability; combat illicit enrichment; and protect public money. (Ch. 1.) It also regulates the conditions and procedures for declaring profits and interest, and sets forth mechanisms to combat illicit enrichment. (Ch. 2.)

The law applies to journalists, media officials, associations, political parties, and trade unions, as well as to officials of private companies contracting with the state. Additionally, it defines a public official as any person, whether officially appointed or permanently or temporarily elected, who is entrusted with the powers of the public authority. (Ch. 3.)

Chapter 4 of the Law defines “conflict of interest” as a situation in which a person has a direct or indirect personal interest that influences or would affect his professional duties. It then describes “illicit enrichment” as any significant increase in the earnings of a person, or a noticeable increase in the amount of the person’s spending, that is inconsistent with his/her resources and cannot be accounted for by a legitimate source of income.

The Law assigns the task of investigating alleged illicit enrichment cases to the Anti-corruption Section of the Good Governance and Anti-corruption Commission established under article 130 of the 2014 Constitution. (Ch. 38.) The Commission then submits a recommendation that the individuals or entities suspected of illicit enrichment be prosecuted. (Ch. 39.)

Finally, the law imposes a penalty of six years’ imprisonment on perpetrators of the crime of illegal enrichment and the same penalty on those who facilitate the crime or know that the earnings they have accrued are derived from the crime. However, it exempts from imprisonment those who are complicit in the crime if they notify the authorities of any information that enables the detection of the crime. (Chs. 37, 45.)

Final Action Task Force Evaluation of Tunisia’s Anti-money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Efforts

Following a field visit to Tunisia from September 16–17, 2019, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental body established in 1989 by the ministers of its member jurisdictions, submitted a report stating that the Tunisian government had fulfilled its commitment to addressing shortages in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. Consequently, the FATF removed Tunisia from the money-laundering and terrorist-financing black list.