Assembly braces for battle over MPs’ membership * Panel delays vote on PM’s grilling

KUWAIT: The Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha) referred yesterday a member of the Central Agency for Public Tenders and his spouse, along with a company staff member, to the public prosecution on corruption charges, including the deliberate act of inflicting damage to public funds. Mohammad Buzubar, Nazaha’s Assistant Secretary General for Investigations and its official spokesman, told KUNA that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Anas Al-Saleh referred a report in early 2018 based on Cabinet decision no. 1657 of Dec 25, 2017.

The report, which was prepared by a judicial fact-finding committee, was based on suspicions and accusations that some members of the tender agency’s board of directors were directly involved in approving a contract with the health ministry and a company that provides ambulances. Buzubar added that the authority also received a letter earlier from the ministry of health suspecting officials in the ministry of corruption over the supply of ambulances to the ministry worth KD 3,720,000 from the same company and using the same style in contracting.

Buzubar noted that the department in charge of corruption detection and investigation carried out its investigative work with regards to both incidents of communications and found a link between them in the suspicious approval issued by the tender agency and the ministry of health contracting a direct order to buy the ambulances from a local company. The Nazaha official affirmed that their procedures and referral have been complete and thorough after examining all collected information and finding the suspects mentioned did receive bribes, and investigations are ongoing with other suspects.

Later yesterday, the Cabinet voiced determination to go ahead with earnest moves to promote integrity and combat corruption at the behest of HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, and commended Nazaha for referring the suspects to the public prosecution. Some MPs also welcomed the move by Nazaha. MP Rakan Al-Nasef said the referral confirms concerns raised by lawmakers in the past.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly looks set today for an unprecedented legal battle over whether the membership of opposition members Waleed Al-Tabtabaei and Jamaan Al-Harbash should be revoked or not after two important court rulings. The issue seems to have been complicated even further yesterday after Tabtabaei filed a motion to the constitutional court asking it to stop the implementation of a ruling it issued last month in which it said article 16 of the Assembly’s internal charter is unconstitutional.

Although it is unlikely that the court will change its opinion on the ruling, it may delay a planned Assembly debate for today over how to implement the key judgment. Opposition MP Mohammad Al-Dallal, who is a lawyer, said yesterday that after the constitutional court accepted the motion by Tabtabaei, it is likely that the Assembly could delay its debate on the fate of the membership of the two lawmakers until another session.
The constitutional court ruling on article 16 effectively annulled a vote by the Assembly in October that maintained the membership of Tabtabaei and Harbash even after they were sent to jail in a final verdict for storming the Assembly building during a protest. That Assembly vote was based on article 16. The Assembly may however decide to debate the issue in its session today, and MPs must decide whether the membership of the two MPs is still legal and holding.

There are two groups in the house – the first insists that the court ruling does not mean revoking the membership of the two MPs because the Assembly decision was taken before the court ruling. This group considers the ruling as an infringement on the powers of the Assembly and violates the constitution. The other group says that the court ruling must be implemented immediately by revoking the membership of the two lawmakers.
Also, the Assembly’s legal and legislative committee again delayed a crucial vote on the constitutional status of a grilling filed in November against the prime minister. The committee was asked to review the grilling to decide if it violated the constitution as claimed by the government. MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri, who filed the grilling, has refused to attend the committee’s meetings. The issue was supposed to be debated today.

MP Riyadh Al-Adasani yesterday urged the Assembly to pass the early retirement law in its original form and not after the amendments that were pushed by the government. Adasani said that it was illogical that the Assembly has to accept changing a law that was passed in the previous term by 43 lawmakers out of 50.

By B Izzak and Agencies