Campaign against corruption

November 14, 2017
Campaign against corruption

Qenan Al Ghamdi

Al-Watan newspaper

CITIZENS were extremely happy when the Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha) was set up seven years ago (in 1432H) to safeguard public funds and fight corruption. They have been watching the commission’s performance with awe and expectations ever since its inception.

Unfortunately the commission’s efforts focused on the margins and not on the root cause of the problem. People have been talking about the root cause of corruption in their councils after they have got indications about corrupt officials and businessmen from newspaper reports and social media revelations.

We have heard about small stories of corruption such as forged deeds and taking millions of riyals as bribes but the Nazaha had no significant role in uncovering them. It was done by some other agencies. This shows that the commission required greater political support to deal with big guns of corruption holding greater power than the commission.

In my view the commission knows the centers of corruption in the country but it’s unable to take any action against them. I believe that it has a detailed report about corrupt individuals in the country but cannot arrest them or level charges against them or try them as it requires a strong political decision, and this is what Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman did earlier this month by setting up a supreme committee headed by Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, to combat corruption.

The committee immediately arrested a number of princes, ministers and business tycoons who have been accused of embezzling and stealing public money. The arrested officials and business leaders will face trial.

The tempest has hit top echelons. I think it has rocked the rotten iceberg, and will continue until the whole mountain is fragmented. The arrested people do not cover all individuals accused of corruption, as suspicion hovers around many others for embezzling public money. This campaign will lead to recovering billions and hundreds of millions of riyals, which they amassed without any right.

Most of them have accumulated huge amounts of wealth through thefts and bribes as well as by awarding contracts of projects worth billions of riyals for amounts higher than the actual cost. Some contracts were fictitious that remained only on paper but the amounts allocated for these projects went into corrupt officials’ pockets. The reason behind most stalled projects is corruption. On the other hand, bribery has gripped most government institutions and departments. People take it easy and believe “there is nothing wrong” without knowing its negative consequences on the economy.

Sunday night’s storm was historic by all standards. It will be recorded as the beginning of a new era in Saudi Arabia’s history. It’s a good start to establish a state without corruption.

In my opinion, if we calculate the billions of riyals allocated for development projects across the country during the past 10 years and compare it with the projects implemented on the ground we can see that corruption has taken the lion’s share. We expect the newly formed higher authority to find out who took that money that was to be used for the Kingdom’s development.

Financial corruption is undoubtedly a major crime perpetrated by administrative officials. Administrative corruption is the father of all sorts of corruption and it is impossible to eradicate financial graft without radical administrative reforms.

This reform should begin from the top of every department, by appointing uncorrupt, highly qualified and experienced ministers who should be given the authority to change the second and third layers of officials by appointing highly capable bureaucrats who are known for their integrity and fairness. This will definitely prevent corruption from sneaking into ministries and government departments and agencies.

At the same time, qualified and impartial monitoring bodies should keep a watch on the ministries and departments and take strong and quick action against corrupt officials. The formation of the Supreme Committee by King Salman under the chairmanship of Crown Prince Muhammed proved a right move in the right direction.

The committee has shown its strength and determination to eradicate corruption from the moment of its formation. The crown prince has given the word “immediately” its true meaning by executing his orders without delay, ever since he became the chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs. For Prince Muhammad Bin Salman decisions have no meaning without implementation.

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