MPs file to grill oil minister; panel OKs early retirement bill

KUWAIT: Opposition MPs Omar Al-Tabtabaei (left) and Abdulwahab Al-Babtain arrive to file to grill Oil Minister Bakheet Al-Rasheedi yesterday at the National Assembly. — Photo by Fouad Al-Shaikh

KUWAIT: Opposition MPs Omar Al-Tabtabaei and Abdulwahab Al-Babtain yesterday filed to grill Oil Minister Bakheet Al-Rasheedi over allegations of corruption, mismanagement, squandering public funds and others. Babtain described it as the “grilling of billions” in reference to the alleged sums that have either been stolen or squandered by the oil sector, while Tabtabaei said a “mafia” is running the oil sector.

The lengthy grilling has been placed on the agenda of the May 1 Assembly session for a potential debate, Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem told reporters. He said the grilling was not placed on today’s agenda because it was submitted too late and to be debated today and requires the Assembly to agree to place it on the agenda and allow its debate.

The two lawmakers advised the minister to face the grilling and not to resign ahead of the debate, with Tabtabaei insisting that it “contains strong points” with authentic documentation. The grilling is based on 10 main issues, all alleging corruption, mismanagement, squandering of public funds and losses from bad investment decisions. The grilling blames the minister and the oil sector of squandering or losing “hundreds of millions of dinars”, while Babtain said the amounts “are well over one billion dinars”.

The lawmakers vowed to produce documents to prove their accusations from original sources and urged MPs to first hear the debate before judging the grilling. In the first issue, the grilling alleges a delay in the Clean Fuel Project until the end of 2018, causing the state heavy losses, besides failing to impose delay fines on contractors. It accused the minister of entering into bad investments that cost public funds massive losses, citing the example of a foreign investment that has resulted in $630 million in losses.

It also accused the ministry of failing to collect public funds from lawyers involved in the Dow Chemical issue, and also causing losses to public funds by not operating the refinery in Vietnam. The grilling charged that the minister provided misleading answers to questions submitted by MPs and that he tried to protect senior oil executives who are suspected of graft. It accuses the minister of not responding to “corruption files” of some senior executives and not holding to account those who triggered the oil strike two years ago, which led to a stoppage in oil supplies.

Tabtabaei vowed that the grilling will explain how the oil sector is being run by a mafia, adding that he will not accept anything less than holding oil executives to account, otherwise they plan to grill the chairman of the Supreme Petroleum Council (SPC) – the prime minister. Babtain meanwhile warned that if anything is deleted from the grilling, he will grill the prime minister.

In another development, the financial and economic affairs committee yesterday approved a draft law for early retirement despite a lack of agreement with the government. MP Saleh Ashour said the law allows male government employees to retire after serving for 30 years and women after 25 years regardless of age. Men who want to retire after 25 years of service will lose five percent of their pension, he said. The draft law is expected to be debated either today or tomorrow.

By B Izzak

This article was published on 16/04/2018