Bassam Zakarneh, chairman of the Palestinian Authority Workers’ Union, launched a scathing and unprecedented attack on Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Tuesday, accusing him of squandering public funds and refusing to take action against corrupt ministers.
Zakarneh also accused the PA leadership of barring the Palestinian media from publishing statements issued by him and the Workers’ Union.
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Zakarneh’s attack on Fayyad comes only days after the prime minister announced that the PA would pay only half salaries to its workers because of the failure of donor countries to meet their financial obligations to the Palestinians.
Zakarneh voiced his sharp criticism of Fayyad in an interview with the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper.
“We’ve discovered that some ministers and officials are receiving financial aid in their wives’ names,” Zakarneh told the paper. “Most of the aid authorized by Fayyad to the ministers and officials is in the context of support for the poor and families of martyrs. The money is paid to the wives [of the ministers and officials].”
Calling for an investigation into the allegations, Zakarneh pointed out that in one case the wife of a top official received more than $10,000 to purchase new contact lenses.
“Fayyad is continuing to give financial aid to all those who are close to him,” he charged. “He’s doing so under the pretext of social aid.”
He also called for the dismissal of three ministers who have allegedly been involved in corruption-related scandals.
“Fayyad is refusing to take action against the three ministers,” he said. “He’s concerned that his government would be accused of corruption.”
Zakarneh complained that only Fayyad and one or two officials in the Ministry of Finance had exclusive control over public funds and were not sharing information with the Palestinian Legislative Council or the Workers’ Union.
“There are issues that require lengthy discussions, such as the squandering of public funds in various ways, including granting financial aid to top officials and their wives,” he added.
Zakarneh said he did not believe Fayyad’s claim that the PA was facing financial difficulties and therefore could not pay full salaries to its workers.
“This is not a real crisis,” he charged. “There is no crisis that obliges the government to pay half salaries.
There are tax revenues worth NIS 350 million, local taxes worth NIS 150
million and a $40 million grant from the European Union. All this money
is in the hands of the government.”
Zakarneh also complained that he and leaders of the Workers’ Union have been barred from the PA-controlled media.
“The Workers’ Union is banned from appearing on the PA-run TV and radio
stations because of pressure from the Palestinian government,” he said.
The PA government, meanwhile, said it would not spare efforts to resolve
the financial crisis and expressed relief over the employees’
understanding. It also renewed its appeal to the donor countries,
especially the Arab world, to fulfill their promises and provide
financial aid to the Palestinians.