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Palestinian organization criticizes PA for nepotistic vaccine distribution, saying “Favoritism kills”

Nan Jacques Zilberdik  |
  • Palestinian organization “Aman – Transparency Palestine” demands that PA PM Shtayyeh “forms an investigation committee to scrutinize the process of vaccine distribution, to hold to account those who violated the distribution principles, and to publish Covid19 vaccination plan.”

  •  “Available information and observations indicate that many persons have been vaccinated, in breach of the prioritization criteria.”

  • “The [vaccination] process is conducted within a framework of cronyism and contacts, giving priority to personal interests at the expense of public interest.”

 
“Favoritism kills”

The Palestinian organization Aman – Transparency Palestine has criticized the PA for its unfair and nepotistic distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. It illustrated its point with the image above entitled “Favoritism kills.”

Aman, which describes itself as a “civil society organization” and “think tank” committed to combating corruption, has severely criticized the PA’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in general and of its formulating and implementing a vaccine program in particular. One central complaint is the lack of transparency: (All quotes are from Aman’s English original)

“Since the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the civil society organizations (CSOs) have maintained that the government must adhere to the principles of transparency and integrity in managing the pandemic, since the countries that confronted the pandemic most effectively are those that adhered to the principles of partnership, disclosure and transparency with their citizens to manage the crisis.”

[website of Aman – Transparency Palestine, March 2, 2021]

Aman already early on requested of the PA’s Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh that he form “a public-private-nongovernmental committee to develop a vaccine distribution plan and criteria.” The group did so while warning of the danger of favoritism – referred to by the group with the Arabic term “Wasta” – “nepotism and abuse of power and positions in obtaining vaccines.”

When the PA government did make the decision to “develop a plan,” Aman again insisted on transparent and fair procedures:

“The Council of Ministers meeting no. (87) took the decision to develop a plan to provide Palestine with sufficient quantities of vaccines in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) criteria. The civil society called then for publicizing the distribution process, publishing an accurate and thorough database of the target groups, their places of residence, and the centers at which they would receive the vaccines, in accordance with a projected timeline. The aim was to ensure transparent processes of planning and distribution, which would enhance the citizens’ trust in the official parties and the adopted measures. Moreover, the aim was to define the roles of all governmental, private and nongovernmental parties, UNRWA, as well as the database of the Ministry of Interior, the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other stakeholders who might have a role in developing the necessary databases.”

However, the PA government has ignored Aman.

In an article on its website, Aman states that “available information and observations indicate that many persons have been vaccinated, in breach of the prioritization criteria.” Aman added that:

“The [vaccination] process is conducted within a framework of cronyism and contacts, giving priority to personal interests at the expense of public interest.”

Aman criticizes the PA for not publishing its vaccination plan, vaccine distribution plan, and the list of people who have received the vaccination already. Aman claims some have “abused their positions” and warns that this lack of transparency leads to “favoritism, nepotism, selfishness and omission of the public interest”:

“[The PA government] continues to refrain from announcing the mechanisms, measures and points of distribution, and from holding accountable those who abused their public positions. This creates an enabling environment for Wasta (i.e., favoritism –Ed.), nepotism, selfishness and omission of the public interest.
The government failed to make public the details of the process of purchasing the vaccines, the exporting companies, the detailed budgets and specific delivery dates. Moreover, it keeps providing conflicting information and statements, which indicates poor management of the battle against Covid-19 virus, pending international sympathy in providing the vaccines…”

Palestinian Media Watch has reported on the PA’s Animal Farm attitude in the past when it instructed Palestinians to reject “normalization” with Israel, but readily sent one of its own leaders for treatment for the Coronavirus in an Israeli hospital.

PMW has also reported on the PA’s failure in securing vaccines and resulting blame of Israel; its utilization of the Coronavirus crisis to libel Israel, accusing it employing the virus to harm Palestinians; and its prioritizing its continued payment of salaries to terrorists rather than buying vaccines.

In the “About” section on Aman’s website the organization describes itself:

“AMAN was established in 2000 as a civil society organization that seeks to combat corruption and promote integrity, transparency and accountability in the Palestinian society.  The Coalition was first formed by an initiative from a number of civil society organizations working in the field of democracy, human rights and good governance. In 2006, the Coalition was accredited as a national chapter for Transparency International.
AMAN is a Palestinian think tank and a specialized body providing knowledge on corruption at the local and regional level through producing specialized reports and studies.  The periodic publications include: The annual Integrity and Anti-Corruption Report, the annual Palestinian Integrity Index and the National Integrity System studies and reports, in addition to the Coalition's continued contributions to produce reports and studies on the status of corruption in the Arab region.
As part of the global anti-corruption movement - and of international alliances and partnerships with relevant specialized coalitions and organizations - AMAN plays a key role in the transfer and contextualization of necessary international knowledge and tools to combat corruption in all sectors.”

The following is the full article on the website of Aman (English in original):

“The Civil Society Organizations demand that the Prime Minister forms an investigation committee to scrutinize the process of vaccine distribution, to hold to account those who violated the distribution principles, and to publish Covid19 vaccination plan”

Ramallah- Since the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the civil society organizations (CSOs) have maintained that the government must adhere to the principles of transparency and integrity in managing the pandemic, since the countries that confronted the pandemic most effectively are those that adhered to the principles of partnership, disclosure and transparency with their citizens to manage the crisis.

Upon announcing that a vaccine has been developed against the virus, and the subsequent competition among the states to purchase or reserve quantities, the reports of the international agencies that warned of the consequences of failing to adopt clear distribution mechanisms and criteria, and of the possibilities of corruption or abuse of power in the processes of distribution or importation. To avoid such problems arising from distribution processes in Palestine once the vaccine is available, the civil society had requested the Prime Minister to form a public-private-nongovernmental committee to develop a vaccine distribution plan and criteria.    

The civil society also reiterated that the distribution process would be complicated, and required a timely and thorough planning process to preclude Wasta (i.e., favoritism –Ed.), nepotism and abuse of power and positions in obtaining vaccines.

The Council of Ministers meeting no. (87) took the decision to develop a plan to provide Palestine with sufficient quantities of vaccines in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) criteria. The civil society called then for publicizing the distribution process, publishing an accurate and thorough database of the target groups, their places of residence, and the centers at which they would receive the vaccines, in accordance with a projected timeline. The aim was to ensure transparent processes of planning and distribution, which would enhance the citizens’ trust in the official parties and the adopted measures. Moreover, the aim was to define the roles of all governmental, private and nongovernmental parties, UNRWA, as well as the database of the Ministry of Interior, the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and other stakeholders who might have a role in developing the necessary databases.

Despite repeated calls, available information and observations indicate that many persons have been vaccinated, in breach of the prioritization criteria, which gives priority to the medical staff, the elderly and the sick.

The current government continues to overlook the calls for disclosing its Covid-19 vaccine distribution plan and the list of persons who received the vaccines, both from the medical staff and others. It continues to refrain from announcing the mechanisms, measures and points of distribution, and from holding accountable those who abused their public positions. This creates an enabling environment for Wasta (i.e., favoritism), nepotism, selfishness and omission of the public interest.

The government failed to make public the details of the process of purchasing the vaccines, the exporting companies, the detailed budgets and specific delivery dates. Moreover, it keeps providing conflicting information and statements, which indicates poor management of the battle against Covid-19 virus, pending international sympathy in providing the vaccines, which will not happen before several months, or reaching herd immunity, which means sacrificing our most important asset, the Palestinian citizen.

The CSOs believe that the disorganization in managing the vaccine distribution file and the absence of a clear and publicized plan shall have severe repercussions on the Palestinian society. Available information and observation reveals that the process is conducted within a framework of cronyism and contacts, giving priority to personal interests at the expense of public interest, and treating with indifference the serious epidemic situation that threatens the Palestinian medical teams, the sick and the elderly.

Hence, the CSOs demand that the Prime Minister, in his capacity and the first official responsible for managing the Covid-19 file:

  1. Form a special committee of experts to develop a vaccine distribution plan based on clear criteria and accurate database.
  2. Instruct MOH to publish the government’s vaccine distribution plan and all the relevant information on criteria, mechanisms and budgets.
  3. Instruct the competent authorities to publish information on the contracts for vaccine procurement and the agreed quantities.
  4. Form an investigation committee constituting of experts and specialized persons, and with the participation of the civil society, to scrutinize the violations that occurred during the process of distribution of the first batch of vaccines that the Palestinian government had received, and hold accountable all those proven to have abused their positions for their private interests.
  5. Instruct MOH to publish lists of the names of persons who received the vaccines and their places of work, in line with the principle of transparency.
  6. Develop a unit to receive the citizens’ complaints and objections about the vaccine distribution process.

[website of Aman – Transparency Palestine, March 2, 2021]
https://www.aman-palestine.org/en/activities/14817.html