Nepotism and a culture of handing down jobs to your own family is at the heart of a scandal in Morocco, calling for a minister at the centre of it all to resign
Social media platforms in Morocco are buzzing regarding the stink of corruption emanating from the ministry of justice over its handling of bar exams. The minster at the centre of the accusations – mainly nepotism – is facing calls for him to resign, following protests from youngsters in Rabat who took the exam and are calling for an investigation into the validity of the decision to pass over 2000 candidates, who are selected for the second stage of the test before entering the legal profession.
For many Moroccans it hardly comes as a great surprise that there are irregularities over who was passed and in some shocking cases who was even on the list in the first place, given Morocco has an abysmal record for corruption within the judiciary itself – a system which rarely delivers justice but is constructed around paying bribes to manipulate cases.
Yet this particular scandal has captured the imagination of the entire nation and some may even argue could form the basis of broader protests about inequality and graft in the public sector.
No sooner had the Ministry of Justice published the list of 2,081 candidates for the “certificate of aptitude for the legal profession” admitted to take the oral exams, than Abdellatif Ouahbi found himself in the heart of a controversy raging on social networks. Among the candidates admitted, some have similar surnames, even the surname Ouahbi. But what really made people talk the most was that many of those admitted have parents already practicing as lawyers, which shocks Moroccans who are angry that Rabat institutions are a closed shop and jobs get handed down generations with little possibility for outsiders to join.
Facebook became the location where most Moroccans left comments. For some, this is proof that “this competition was marred by irregularities and favouritism” while others deplored “the equal opportunities which were not guaranteed”. In addition, other Internet users felt that it was normal for candidates with similar surnames to succeed in the competition and that one should not be “a bad loser in case one fails an exam”, according to one report.
For some, social media was a place to post mocked pictures ridiculing the story (below).
But the extent of how much corruption is endemic in public institutions and how media have failed to report on it with any real fervour, is revealed in the reporting of the scandal with one media outlet hilariously pointing out how “kind” it was of the minister to take questions from the press.
Government ministers in Rabat generally have a contempt for Moroccan press, considering them to be servants to be called upon while rarely accept telephone calls from them, or requests for quotes.
But his replies only paint a bleaker picture of how corrupt the Rabat elite is in government ministries and how typical it must be that jobs are selected by those who are already working for the same public office. His response to defend himself by referring to a special commission which journalists are supposed to believe, is above any meddling is laughable however. His actual comments also showed a certain contempt for Moroccan journalists who at least call for the subject to be investigated.
“This is not a crime for me to open an investigation. I trust the committee. Should I open an investigation just because someone sitting in a cafe asked me to?”
When asked if his son had also passed the bar exam, the justice minister said: “My son has two bachelor degrees from Montreal… His father is rich and paid for his education abroad.”
Ouahbi’s comment triggered a nationwide uproar, with many Moroccan netizens accusing the minister of deprecating the Moroccan educational system.
But according to one news outlet, the minister had both family members who were both selected and passed the initial exam, plus a senior official in his own ministry.
Moulay Said Charfi, Director of Logistics and Heritage Management at the Ministry of Justice, was on the list of winners as well as Mr Ouahbi’s own son, one outlet is claiming. Charfi claims that he had asked to be relieved of his job to take the exam although no solid evidence of this is available to verify this.
At the time if going to press, Mr Ouahbi, remarkably, is still the minster of justice.