Premier committed to tackling corruption: Minister
KUWAIT: His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah stressed that he would not allow “corruption to exist” in government departments, and he would hold departments’ leaders responsible in case of corruption cases. “I will not allow corruption in our bodies and I will hold you responsible, so I urge you to join me in addressing this matter,” His Highness the Prime Minister said during the Inaugural Government Forum on Promoting Integrity, held at Seif Palace Sunday night. “You are our anonymous soldiers who work in our departments, and you are much aware of the places of corruption and how to eliminate them,” he said in his address to the ministers and senior officials attending the forum. “I will be at your side in fighting corruption but I will also be against you if I don’t see any positive action against corruption,” he said. His Highness the Prime Ministers told them whoever thought he was unable to confront corruption should step down. Corruption, he said, has many ways and the corrupt people have been evading prosecution, so the government authorities should double efforts to fight them.
Deputy Prime Minister and State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Anas Al-Saleh underlined that His Highness the Prime Minister’s efforts to encourage transparency and stamp out corruption in state bodies are continuous and ongoing. The deputy prime minister outlined His Highness Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak’s administrative reform plans at the forum, which precedes many similar events planned for the future. The event, described by the minister as a “precedent,” was held thanks to the instructions of His Highness the Prime Minister in order to group the government’s leading decision-makers under one roof. Subsequent events will host several ministers, each of whom will talk about their own roles and duties.
On the topic of corruption, he pointed out to numerous decisions taken in relation to state bodies on the matter aimed at raising Kuwait’s ranking on global corruption indexes. Most notably, these include the creation of the Public Anti-Corruption Authority, commonly referred to as Nazaha, in 2012, and a national anti-corruption strategy, which groups 15 state bodies. Other measures include the Conflict of Interest Law, the Tenders Law, which witnessed the formation of an independent complaints committee, the Municipality Law, which tackles financial misappropriation and the Public Authority of Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources Law, which prevents agricultural holdings trade. The Cabinet also recently formed a legal committee to investigate irregularity claims in regards to several Central Agency for Public Tenders board members, which it referred to Nazaha.
Alleged misappropriation regarding the billion-dollar Caracal helicopters deal with France was also referred to both the Public Anti-Corruption Authority and the State Audit Bureau. Since then, the Cabinet has tasked its ministers with investigating suspicions into some 14 tenders. The cabinet has also started investigations into 94 counterfeit academic certificate claims and 178 claims of financial embezzlement. On state officials, he said in spite of Oil Minister and Minister of Electricity and Water Bakheet Al-Rasheedi’s grilling coming to a close, the Cabinet has formed an investigation committee into the inquiry’s recommendations.
Lengthy red tape
State Minister for Housing and Services Minister Jenan Bushehri insisted that one of the main causes of corruption is the complicated and unnecessarily lengthy red tape. Diminishing administrative bodies reduces employee interference, therefore decreasing the likelihood of corrupt practices, she argued. These measures also limit the steps needed by the public for necessary paperwork. In regards to the Public Housing Authority, she said the state body’s sectors have been reduced from 10 to seven sectors, through combining sectors tasked with similar functions. These measures have also been applied to the Ministry of Communications, which witnessed a nine to five sector cut.
On the matter of public funds, she said that an audit into the mechanism surrounding housing subsidies for Kuwaiti nationals revealed a rise in public debt from KD four million ($13 million) in 2017 to KD 19 million ($62 million) in 2018, due to these subsidies being handed out disproportionately. The minister also pointed out to a total KD 54 million ($177 million) in penalties for delayed contracts, which the Public Housing Authority has imposed on several firms. In his address, Minister of Commerce and Industry Khaled Al-Roudhan, who is heading a government e-services development committee, revealed that 33 state bodies are witnessing the improvements – including 1,596 changes.
On the matter of the forged certificates, Minister of Education and Higher Education Hamed Al-Azmi said a total 360 claims are currently being investigated by the public prosecutor’s office. Also, in regards to the Caracal helicopters deal investigation, Public Anti-Corruption Authority’s chief Abdulrahman Al-Nemash said he expects an announcement to be made on the issue in May, next year. An announcement is also forthcoming regarding the investigation into the alleged misappropriation of funds of a number of Central Agency for Public Tenders board members. The body constantly tracks global corruption indexes, particularly the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Index and the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. Its role splits into three axis, namely receiving complaints, which have so far amounted to 190, assessing state body financial disclosure responsibilities and setting up public campaigns alerting to the dangers of corruption. – KUNA