• The Traffic Directorate has failed to collect BD 9 million of motoring fines, along with BD 10 million in fines for traffic accidents. The Electricity and Water Authority failed to disconnect services to consumers who owe tens of thousands of dinars in unpaid fees.
  • A retired director at the Ministry of Works continued receiving his monthly salary and bonuses for four years after retirement – amounting to BD 138,000. Parliament recruited a female employee who lacked qualifications, without her even attending an interview, and without the job being formally advertised.
  • There is a BD 10.9 billion shortfall in the fund for old age pensions. Numerous ministries are getting further behind in funding the budgets of major ongoing projects…

These shortcomings and financial violations are among those highlighted by the new annual report issued by the National Audit Office. The NAO report investigates all government departments and ensures transparency and accountability for all instances of corruption and mismanagement, with the most serious cases each year being passed on to Public Prosecution so that criminal action can be taken. The fact that copies of the report are personally submitted to the King and Prime Minister indicates how seriously this process is taken at the highest levels.

The transparent handling of such issues allows mistakes and failings to be properly addressed, in order to improve overall performance. As Minister of State Mohammed al-Mutawwa noted, there had been a 25% drop in the number of incidents identified by the NAO report between 2012 to 2017, amounting to 346 incidents cited by the 2016-17 report; with an 80% drop in the number of cases referred to Public Prosecution, to just five this year.

However, with the tightening of the economic situation in the past three years and citizens feeling an increasing strain on standards of living, there is greater concern than ever to ensure that every dinar of public funds is properly spent. Between 2014 and 2017 most Government departments have been forced to accept substantive cuts to their budgets in order to allow for the sharp drop in oil revenues, obliging all ministries to become increasingly efficient with their spending. The BD 400 million of wasted public funds cited by the NAO report represents a substantial proportion of the annual budget which could have been put to use on projects which would really make a difference to the public.

While we welcome efforts by the National Audit Office to highlight these issues; the public today needs to be given confidence that all incidents of corruption and malpractice will be addressed with the utmost seriousness by MPs, ministers and officials. This opportunity must not be wasted for improving standards of governance in Bahrain.

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Parliament updates - What's going on in Bahraini politics?

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This blog keeps track of significant developments inside Bahrain’s Parliament

 

MPs call for action on National Audit Office report – 6 Dec

Parliamentary blocs are coordinating with a view to setting up committees of investigation into financial violations identified by the annual NAO report. This is according to MP Muhsin al-Bakri from the National Accord bloc who pledged that serious violations would be transferred to the Public Prosecutor. However, Bakri warned that the process for interviewing ministers about issues of malpractice and financial shortcomings. MP Mohammed al-Ahmad also promised that the Financial Committee, which he is a member of would summon ministers and officials from departments cited by the report. However, he also acknowledged past difficulties in getting the requisite number of MPs to support ministerial interrogations.

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Bahrain – Best country in the world for expats

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According to two of the most comprehensive annual surveys of expats worldwide, Bahrain is the world’s most popular destination. The Expat Insider 2017 survey scored Bahrain particularly highly as being a welcoming nation for new arrivals and a great location for families. Although Bahrain has normally been among the top-twenty nations in Expat Insider surveys and similar polls, this year Bahrain soared into the top place.

Explaining Bahrain’s strong showing, Expat Insider stated: “Improvements across all indices that factor into the ranking have seen the Gulf state take pole position in 2017”.

The 2017 survey of thousands of expats around the world by the InterNations network also put Bahrain in the top position, with Bahrain scoring highly for cost of living, and being recognized for its “welcoming atmosphere, friendliness of locals and good wages”, being described as the “friendliest country in the world for expats”.

Here we look at the reasons why Bahrain is best in the world:

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President Trump’s refusal to certify that Iran is abiding by its obligations from the 2015 nuclear deal has thrown much of the world into confusion, with some commentators criticizing Trump for undermining an international agreement which reduced the chance of a nuclear-armed Tehran; while others praised the President for addressing Iran’s misbehavior in the region. Here we look at a range of different scenarios which could result from this decision and the implications of these for the Arabian Gulf region: 

A more confrontational Iran

Iran usually responds to these kind of threats by taking an even more confrontational and prevocational approach. This may take the form of anti-American statements by Iranian leaders; but Iran may also increase its trouble-making in regional states. For example, Tehran has often threatened the US naval base in Bahrain, so Iran may signal its ability to exert its regional influence by increased support for Shia militants in Bahrain who have been responsible for the deaths of many policemen in terrorist bombings.

Within a couple of days of Trump’s statement, Iran mobilized its allies in Iraq to capture the city of Kirkuk and other areas under Kurdish control. Iranian militants are also confronting American-backed forces in eastern Syria.

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