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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                     July 12, 1995, V3, #127
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Effort to Finalize Interim Agreement Begin Today

The final stage of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the Interim Agreement begins today in Florence, Italy. Foreign Ministry Director-General Uri Savir meets with Palestinian delegation head Abu Alla to coordinate a final schedule for the talks. Delegations comprised of about 70 members, which include experts from all fields, will work on the fine points of the agreements. The Israeli delegation will be made up primarily of IDF officers.

There is Accountability by Amira Hess (By Courtesy of Ha'aretz)

It has been reported that some members of the US Congress are worried about American tax-payers' money -- being transferred as contributions to the Palestinian Authority -- not reaching its intended destination. In more or less obvious hints, they have asserted in recent weeks that the PLO, the Palestinian Authority and Yasir Arafat are embezzling the funds that the international community has raised to get the Oslo Accord on its feet. Nor have they concealed their intent to act against the section of the American foreign aid bill which enables donations to be made to the PA.

Meanwhile, "the US House of Representatives has followed in the Senate's footsteps, deciding to grant a 45-day extension to the law mandating aid for the PA. An intense debate is now anticipated between the Administration and Members of Congress who want to increase the pressure on Arafat, and condition continued aid on stringent supervision of the PA's book-keeping..." (Ha'aretz, 7/2/95).

Opponents have not managed to affect members of the international apparatus involved in transferring contributions to the PA. Translating his words into undiplomatic language, one United Nations official actively involved in this mechanism implied that those same Congressmen should bother to try and find more substantiated claims, and certainly not ones which basically heap garbage on the rich experience of respected bodies such as the World Bank and Western consulates as well -- organizations whose representatives spend long hours in discussions on sewage in the Shati refugee camp and on the appropriate salaries of officials at the Palestinian education bureau.

For a long time, this same UN official assured, the PA's compliance with accounting norms and the "transparency" of its use of contributions -- the lion's share of its budget -- have not been raised in meetings with representatives of the donor countries.

"The international mechanism that the World Bank and UN bodies, in full cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, have developed over the past 18 months," he says, "ensures that full accountability is given of the funds." Data that the World Bank collected from donor countries last month corroborates the official's claim.

The real problems of concern to those administering the donations are different. Firstly, an unintentional deviation has occurred in the distribution of contribution destinations. The original intent was to earmark most of the funds for PA development and rehabilitation programs, with the PA being responsible for most of its operating budget (that is, salaries and office expenses).

But to date, over 40% of the aid actually received has been diverted to pay wages and to partially cover the expected deficit in the PA budget; in March, the deficit for the second half of 1995 was estimated at $136 million.

The current number of Palestinian policemen is double the amount fixed in the Oslo Accord -- more than 18,000, instead of 9,000 (equalling one security official per every 50 people in Gaza). There is no public sector that has so inflated the ranks of its employees.

It is also difficult to monitor the number of security branches, whose missions and powers -- such as the authority to arrest and conduct investigations -- overlap (like those of the economic bureaus). Aside from the new education facilities and road-paving work, the most blatant example of public construction is in the police sphere (offices, police stations, new detention rooms and living quarters for policemen).

Indeed, the official international community (including Israel) has not criticized Arafat over his large police force; in reality, it has demonstrated great understanding of this deviation from the agreement -- praising Arafat for what are called his successes in the area of internal security -- which may be why the opposition has exaggerated its estimates of the actual contributions.

But up to March 1995, the donors transferred $61 million (for the monthly salaries of the 9,000 "permitted" policemen) via UNRWA. Since April, the PA has funded the wages of all 18,000 security personnel from its own sources -- including bank overdraft. There now appears to be a chance of receiving an almost $7 million contribution to fund the July salaries of 9,000 policemen. In other words, it would be better for the opposition to concentrate on looking for other "arrows" when it wants to attack the international community's involvement in the maintenance of the Oslo project.

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