Corruption 'epidemic' in Tunisia, says anti-graft chief

Tunis - Graft in Tunisia has reached "epidemic" proportions, the head of the national anti-graft body INLC said on Tuesday, and urged the new government to eradicate the "barons of corruption".

The unity government that took office in the North African nation on Monday has made the fight against corruption a priority.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has also announced the abolition of a ministry previously dedicated to battling corruption to concentrate state resources on the INLC.

Chawki Tabib, who was appointed to head the INLC at the beginning of the year, took advantage of the presentation of a report at a news conference on Tuesday to urge firm action.

"We conclude that it has reached the epidemic stage, but an epidemic we can still tackle if all efforts are devoted to fight corruption" and if the premier follows through with his pledge, Tabib said.

Poor governance 

"The barons of corruption who have infiltrated the state apparatus, the media and the ruling parties must be eradicated," he added.

And without naming names, he said the scourge also affects the judiciary.

Tabib told AFP that experts had assessed the annual cost of corruption and poor governance in public contracts at "two billion dinars" (approximately 800 million euros).

"It is too much for our economy," he said.

Tabib called for strengthening the law, especially when it came to assets and conflicts of interest.

According to a recent study by the NGO Transparency International, more than two thirds of Tunisians believe that corruption has increased in their country in the past year.

Experts say state corruption under the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who was ousted after the Arab Spring of 2011 has now given way to petty corruption in all areas of daily life.

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