A decree issued by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in July, that provoked criticism from government departments and political parties, has been further condemned in a new report by a local human rights NGO.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights’ (EIPR) newest report says that the new decree, which allows for the presidency to remove heads of independent governmental bodies, “disarms” those bodies of the independence necessary to function effectively.
Law 89/2015 grants the President the right to dismiss heads and members of independent bodies and regulatory agencies under four different circumstances: if there is evidence against individuals that they have compromised national security; if they have lost confidence or esteem; if they breach their duties leading to damage of the higher interests of the country or damage the esteem of a public official; and finally, if they were too ill to fulfil their duty, barring health conditions.
However, the EIPR has called into question the intentions and potential effects of the law, and argues that it leads to “further consolidations of the powers of the executive branch in general and the institution of the presidency in particular, to the detriment of separation of powers and efforts to combat corruption and promote good governance”.
The report covers the work of numerous bodies that may be affected, including the Central Auditing Organisation (CAO). The CAO was established in 1942 is an independent body tasked with monitoring the use of state funds and their managers. Headed by Hisham Geneina, the CAO has been primarily observed as the body most challenged by this decree among media and political observers. The EIPR’s analysis argues that the CAO will be “disarmed” by the new decree, as even if the President’s intentions are not to expand powers. The reality that he possesses the power will affect the behaviour of bodies, including the CAO.
The CAO’s work has come to the forefront recently amid attacks from other branches of government, including the Minister of Justice Ahmed Al-Zind, and the identification of $9.4bn of unaccounted public funds operated across different departments.
The report also highlights other government bodies that may be challenged by the decree including the Administrative Control Authority, the General Authority for Financial Supervision, and the Central Bank.
The new law serves to push Egypt further away from international standards, in countries such as the US and UK, that try to establish boundaries of executive authority and guarantee the independence of governmental bodies, especially those tasked with investigating other government branches.
In July, the Democratic Coalition, consisting of eight liberal and leftist parties and political movements, such as Al-Dostour, Al-Karama, and the Popular Current, rejected the presidential decree. The coalition questioned the extent of the urgency for issuing such a decree before a parliament has been formed.