Egypt’s president issued a televised decree relieving head of the Central Auditing Authority of his post with immediate effect Monday evening, local media reported.
State Security Prosecution issued a statement on Sunday asserting that Hesham Geneina’s comments about corruption in Egypt are inaccurate and that he would be interrogated about them. There were reports of Geneina appearing in front of State Security Prosecution on Monday which his lawyer denied.
Geneina has not received any official notification that he is being investigated by state authorities, his lawyer, Ali Taha, told Mada Masr. Nor was he officially notified of his removal, Taha said.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi passed a decree in the summer of 2015, giving him the right to remove the heads of oversight and independent bodies from their previously protected positions if they pose a proven threat to national security or fail to carry out their duties. The law was one of several recently ratified by the newly elected parliament.
The post was previously immune and the bylaws of the Central Auditing Authority stipulate that the head cannot be removed in order to protect the corruption body from interference.
The head of the Central Auditing Authority typically holds the post for four years, and the position is renewable for a second term.
Taha insisted that the decision to remove Geneina is not legally sound. Despite the new law that allows Sisi to sack heads of supervisory boards, Taha explained that an amendment to the CAA bylaws through parliament was also necessary.
Nevertheless, Geneina is unlikely to appeal the decision, the lawyer said.
There were speculations that the law was tailored to sack Geneina after he gave several outspoken interviews about corruption within the state.
Whereas in the past, the agency — established in 1942 — would mostly satisfy itself with approaching concerned state institutions to review its findings, Geneina took the work a step further and sent hundreds of cases to the country’s state prosecutor, demanding official investigations into graft cases.
A report prepared by the CAA, “Analysis of the cost of corruption in some sectors in Egypt,” was never made publicly available. In the absence of the actual report, the public controversy stems from a December statement by Geneina to Youm7 newspaper. Geneina reportedly told the paper that it was difficult to accurately determine the cost of corruption in Egyptian institutions. Previous reports by CAA members showed that “corruption in 2015 exceeded LE600 billion.”
A committee tasked by the president himself to look into such comments accused Geneina of deliberate deception and exaggerating the extent of corruption. A gag order was imposed on the investigations into the corruption report.
The fact-finding committee also said it had communicated with Geneina and clarified that the LE600 billion figure refered to the years 2012-2015, not just 2015.
Apart from this, controversy around Geneina has concentrated on the fact he was appointed to his post by former President Mohamed Morsi, and was embroiled in a conflict with former Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend dating back to 2009.
Some local media outlets have repeatedly accused Geneina of being an Islamist sympathizer and an advocate of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Zend, himself relieved of his post earlier this year after comments perceived to be blasphemous, filed a couple of cases against Geneina on accusations of insulting the judiciary.