The annual Audit Bureau report has proved a hugely important tool for identifying corruption and financial mismanagement in Bahrain government departments. In particular, since 2015, there has been a major drive for reducing wasted expenditure in ministries and institutions.
As well as ensuring that every dinar of public money is used to ensure public wellbeing, this also gives Bahraini citizens greater confidence that officials are acting in their best interests and managing public funds properly and efficiently. The report furthermore is an important tool for parliamentarians in conducting their proper oversight duties and holding ministers accountable – and we hope that over the coming months deputies indeed will be following up on all the allegations mentioned in this report.
It is positive to see that some of the most offensive examples of blatantly corrupt practices picked up by previous reports are no longer in evidence. This is an indication that these transparency mechanisms have been effective in weeding out and discouraging graft and deliberate abuses.
However, it is also disappointing to see certain violations appearing year after year. In particular, significant numbers of officials are still getting away with travelling on unnecessary foreign jaunts – often using business class. Government departments are still failing to properly follow tendering practices for major contracts. There are also repeated failures to follow correct financial or environmental procedures. Meanwhile, numerous foreign employees are still getting paid huge amounts to occupy public sector positions which could easily be filled by qualified Bahrainis.
Many of the key findings of the report are cited below:
- An official at the Bahrain Airport Company had been receiving BD500 for every meeting he attended on top of his salary, totaling around BD23,000. The same company had also been paying mobile telephone allowances to 96 employees, despite the company simultaneously paying their mobile bills.
- The Commerce Ministry has failed to carry out routine visits to ensure that trade registrations are in compliance with regulations. The Ministry was also found to have improperly granted trade licenses to public sector employees, as well as state officials being approved for private sector board positions.
- Several ministries were found to have paid for officials to embark on overseas delegations in far greater numbers than was required or was allowed according to official guidance. One IT department was found to have sent 20 officials on a single excursion. For some overseas trips, officials had been allowed to fly business class, in violation of regulations.
- The Civil Service Bureau approved contracts with foreign personnel and extended contracts of some foreign employees for more than 30 years, despite the appointed roles not requiring unusual skills and expertise. Furthermore, 5,736 public employees were recruited without undergoing the standard orientation programmes.
- Faulty procedures at the Justice Ministry have allowed the closure of around 14,467 case files, despite the required fees not being fully paid, amounting to an estimated shortfall of around BD3.8m.
- The Municipalities Ministry between 2016-2018 granted 15 licenses for sand extraction, despite not gaining approval from the Supreme Council for the Environment and other relevant entities.
- The Municipalities Ministry improperly failed to transfer BD6m to the state budget. The same ministry failed to correctly renew contracts for 67 leases in Arad Industrial Zone.
- The Public Administration Institute signed contracts with a number of trainers who did not possess the necessary qualifications. One foreign consultant at the Institute was found to be receiving a BD61,000 salary, despite spending most of his time in Belgium.
- The Council of Representatives employed personnel, despite them not having passed the necessary examinations.
- Sports clubs were found to have received both foreign and domestic sources of funding, without official approval. Spending practices for many youth clubs were also reported to be in violation of official procedures.
- The Ministry of Youth and Sport was found to have awarded contracts worth more than BD300,000, without using the required tendering processes. The same problem of improperly performed tendering processes has been reported for numerous ministries.
- The chancellor of Bahrain University exempted 241 students from fees who didn’t fulfil the required criteria. Education fees for foreign students over three years was found to have cost the university BD 8.5m. The drop-out rate for students in 2015-18 was found to have increased to 20%, causing wasted expenditure of BD 12m.