Under-fire Omair moved to public works ministry – Saleh named acting oil minister; Nod to Arab anti-terror pact

Ali Al-Omair

Ali Al-Omair

KUWAIT: The government finally carried out a long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle, moving Ali Al-Omair out of the oil ministry to the public works ministry after accepting the resignation of Ahmad Al-Jassar as minister of electricity and water and public works two months after submission. Finance Minister Anas Al-Saleh was appointed acting oil minister while State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah was given the electricity and water portfolio on a temporary basis.

MP Abdulhameed Dashti said the limited Cabinet rearrangement is temporary and a prelude to a wider reshuffle after three months. He gave no further details over his predictions. With the new moves, two problems have been solved, though temporarily. Tomorrow’s scheduled questioning of Jassar over allegations of financial and administrative violations in awarding the KD. 1.32 billion contract for the airport expansion project will not take place because the minister has quit.

The new public works minister is not obliged by law to appear for the grilling. The grilling request was filed by MP Saadoun Hammad, who claimed that around KD 600 million in public funds have been squandered. The second problem to be resolved is the dispute in the oil sector between Omair and top executives of state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corp (KPC) and its subsidiaries. Since his appointment in Jan 2014, Omair has been locked into several disputes with oil executives over the interpretation of his powers over KPC and oil companies.

A decision by him early in November to swap the CEOs of two oil companies triggered a row with the oil sector after KPC chief executive officer Nizar Al-Adasani and the two concerned CEOs openly rejected the decision and challenged his authority. This prompted the Cabinet to take Omair away from the sensitive oil sector amid a reported compromise to also change the oil executives shortly.

Immediately after the move, Omair was targeted as the new public works minister. Two MPs, Mansour Al-Dhafiri and Hammad, warned Omair against allowing the airport expansion contract to be signed without an investigation. Hammad said that Omair should examine the awarding process and other alleged violations, otherwise he will resubmit the grilling against the new minister. Dhafiri urged Omair not to allow the contract to go ahead.

MPs Khalil Al-Saleh and Ahmad Al-Qudhaibi, who had threatened to file to grill Omair as oil minister over a variety of violations, criticized Omair’s management of the oil ministry and called on the new minister to correct the mistakes. Saleh said the reported violations have now moved under the authority of the new minister, who should take necessary legal actions.

Qudhaibi said moving Omair out of the oil ministry has defused tensions with oil sector executives and stopped the minister’s unacceptable interference in the sector. He said he will continue to follow up on the issues he raised when Omair was oil minister, especially the violations around the oil pipeline contract.

Meanwhile, rapporteur of the foreign relations committee MP Mohammad Tana said the committee approved the Arab anti-terror agreement but decided to delay the Gulf anti-terror pact until the foreign ministry sends details on it. The committee also approved the Gulf anti-dumping agreement that will be debated by the Assembly tomorrow. Also, the financial and economic affairs committee approved the amendment of 22 articles of the commercial agencies law. Rapporteur of the committee MP Mohammad Al-Jabri said the amendments will help boost competition and provide commodities to consumers in a better way.

By B Izzak

This article was published on 29/11/2015