King Mohammed VI who has repeatedly insisted on the constitutional principle linking public office with accountability on Tuesday dismissed four ministers of the current cabinet for their failure to achieve social and development goals and for the delay witnessed in the implementation of a set of state-funded projects, mainly the Al Hoceima Lighthouse of the Mediterranean development program.
The announcement was made in a statement released by the Royal office, which said that the King asked the Head of the Government, Saad eddine El Othmani, to prepare for a government reshuffle to replace the sacked ministers.
The officials were relieved of their duties after the King received a report of Morocco’s Court of Auditors pointing out to the numerous delays and negligence witnessed in carrying out the $665-million worth program, designed to promote the development of the Northern city of Al Hoceima and its region, the statement said.
The program was launched in October 2015, under the previous government of Abdelilah Benkirane, leader of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), and was expected to be completed in 2019.
The Court, chaired by Driss Jettou, a former Prime Minister, underlined in the report that the investigation confirmed the existence of several malfunctions, revealing that many of the ministerial departments and public institutions concerned did not fulfill their duties and that the explanations they provided do not justify the delay in implementing the Al Hoceima development program. “Even worse the vast majority of these projects had not even been launched,” the report noted. Yet, the report made it clear that there were no malpractices or embezzlements.
The four ministers in office who were dismissed are Mohamed Hassad, Minister of National Education, who was Minister of the Interior in the previous cabinet, Houssaine El Ouardi, Minister of Health, and Nabil Benabdallah, Minister of Housing, who both held the same positions in Benkirane’s government, and Larbi Benckheikh, Secretary of State in charge of Vocational Training who held the position of Director General of OFPPT.
Ali Fassi Fihri, Director General of the National Office of Water and Electricity, was also dismissed, along with 14 other senior officials whose responsibility in malfunctions was established by the Auditors.
Five former ministers have also failed to fulfil their duties, as established by the audit, and the Monarch has decided that no official duties will be entrusted to them in the future. These are Rachid Belmokhtar, former Minister of Education, Lahcen Haddad, former Minister of Tourism, Lahcen Sekkouri, former Minister of Youth and Sports, Mohamed Amine Sbihi, former Minister of Culture and Hakima El Haïté, former Secretary of State for the Environment.
The King praised the efforts made by the current cabinet to speed up the implementation of the programmed projects, and gave instructions to draw lessons from the difficulties encountered in implementing the Al Hoceima Lighthouse of the Mediterranean program in order to avoid the dysfunctions and obstacles that could hinder the implementation of development projects in the different regions of the Kingdom, the Royal Office statement said.
The Tuesday decision that signals the end of impunity for officials failing to deliver their duties may be unprecedented but is not surprising. Actually, King Mohammed VI has repeatedly sounded the alarm as to the poor performance of the Moroccan administration and stressed the need to improve the services provided to citizens. Managing citizens’ affairs and serving their interests are both a national responsibility and a sacred trust, leaving no room for negligence or procrastination, he had underlined in a speech.
“Holding public office is linked with accountability, and during which appropriate answers and solutions to citizens’ pressing problems and issues must be found,” the King also said in the speech he delivered on October 13, when opening the Parliament fall session.
“As the guarantor and custodian of the rule of law, and the first person to respect it, I have never hesitated to hold to account anyone who has patently underperformed while carrying out his or her professional or national duties. However, the situation today commands greater firmness in order to put an end to complacency and to disregard for citizens’ interests,” the Monarch had stated.
“At the same time, we have to make sure that there is judicious, continuous monitoring of the progress made in the implementation of social and development programs, and that we carry out systematic, impartial assessment throughout the implementation phases,” King Mohammed VI had said, before he called on the Court of Auditors to monitor and assess the implementation of public projects in all of the Kingdom’s regions.