In recent months there has been a growing criticism of Bahrain’s ability to deal with official corruption.
First there was the widely discussed case of Alba, the Bahraini aluminium company, concerning which a bribery trial recently collapsed in UK courts.
Then there was the circulation of the National Audit Court report into corruption at the end of 2013 which – coinciding with heavy rainfall and flooding – acted as a lightning rod for accusations of Government departments failing the public and looking after their own interests. The NAC’s report listed 462 violations.
Something serious had to happen. This serious something took the form of an Initiative by Crown Prince Salman for spearheading action into investigating and prosecuting cases of corruption.
The Cabinet’s Executive Committee, chaired by the Crown Prince, is currently reviewing dozens of cases which have been acknowledged to involve ‘serious corruption’ Twenty-five of these have already been referred to the Anti-Corruption Directorate.
The first tangible result of this is that eight officials have been suspended from duty over the past few days; with several of these cases being transferred to the Public Prosecution for criminal investigation.
The 25 cases include seven alleged violations at Alba; 13 violations at the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry, and violations at the Bahrain Flour Mills Company, the Bahrain Chamber for Dispute Resolution (BCDR-AAA), Bapco, the Works Ministry and Housing Ministry.
The Minister of State for Implementation Affairs stated that: “We don’t have red or green lights in relation to violators, and whether they are connected to others on top of the chain, justice will prevail.”
The full list of other violations cited in the NAC report have also been passed on to the Implementation Affairs Ministry, with relevant departments being given until 27 February to implement measures, in order to ensure the proper use of public funds.
All government bodies have been instructed to establish a grievances link on their websites, which will automatically send a copy of all complaints to the Crown Prince. This will ensure that such complaints are not blocked by senior officials looking to keep the lid on incidences of corruption.
We hear that the Crown Prince’s corruption initiative faces opposition from powerful vested interests. We would strongly encourage him and others involved in this task to continue this vital work in putting Bahrain’s institutions of state in order.
This initiative by the Crown Prince came at almost the same time as his initiative to relaunch the National Dialogue. Both of these initiatives are tremendously important and are in harmony with each other:
While the drive to fight corruption shows that Bahraini institutions can be reformed; the Dialogue process seeks unity to construct a shared vision for Bahrain’s political future.