Renewed official stance on corruption


Like everyone else in Bahrain, I was thrilled to read our Crown Prince’s unequivocal statement that corruption will no longer be condoned and that even if a minister was implicated in corruption, he or she will get their just desert.

I also remembered that our parliament has discussed this issue and the committee tasked with formulating that new law has rendered its decision1 to approve a parliamentary discussion of this law. I hope that with the Crown Prince’s push, that law will see the light during the forthcoming new term.

This re-enforced political will is wonderful to behold especially in view of the accelerating corruption cases brought against various managers in government-owned companies like ALBA, Gulf Air and most recently ASRY. I hope at the very least these people being brought to justice will at least get those corrupt officials to sit up and feel a bit embarrassed and take their thieving hands out of the cookie jar for a while at least. One would hope that this new political will will also force them to refill those jars from whatever that had stuck to their nimble fingers.

Unfortunately however, these kind of promises have been heard before but never sufficiently followed up; or at least if they have been followed up no conviction was been meted out to the corrupt. On the contrary, in some cases, people implicated in corrupt activities were actually promoted, as we have most recently witnessed in someone who was implicated in the infamous Bandargate fiasco.

Cases like the Housing Bank, GOSI and others are still fresh in people’s minds. So calls like these – with all due respect – need to really be followed up and convictions of the corrupt be levied in order for this political will to have some legitimacy and for it to regain its credibility.

Let me remind you that corruption is not only monetary, but other forms do exist as well which must be taken care of. In Bahrain for instance, the financial corruption might not exceed other forms of corruption like nepotism, patronage, influence peddling, avoiding the law, etc. However, corruption is no longer just restricted to these traditional arenas, it is more completely defined as:

Corruption obtains when an official transfers a benefit to an individual who may or may not be entitled to the benefit, in exchange for an illegal payment (the bribe). By taking the bribe, the official breaks a legally binding promise he gave to his ‘principal’ (usually the state administration or a private company) to allocate the benefit to those entitled to it. Corruption is neither a property of a social system or an institution, nor a trait of an individual’s character, but rather an illegal exchange. Nowadays scholars have abandoned the classic view of corruption as the degradation of an individual’s ethical sense, or lack of moral integrity. If corruption is a type of exchange it can, at least in principle, be the subject of empirical, cross-country examination. For data, scholars turn mainly to three sources, the German-based NGO Transparency International; the World Bank, and, to a lesser extent, Freedom House. These agencies all produce large cross-national surveys and ranking of countries, although the data come with a variety of biases. Naturally, illegality makes it hard to measure corruption.

Which brings me to the last few years’ CPI rating for Bahrain which has degraded appreciably. One only hopes that with the affirmation and bluntness of the Crown Prince this time, that things will really get moving in the right direction. Finally.

If I may suggest a few small thing to aid in inculcating the culture of anti-corruption: create a provision in law to protect whistle-blowers, cancel that heinous Press and Publications Law 47/2002 to allow news reports to out corruption and its benefactors and let’s see some sentences handed down against high-profile corrupt public employees and appropriate their misbegotten wealth. I am sure that should these things be enacted, our CPI rating will most certainly rise. Much more importantly of course, Bahrain’s credibility both national and international will be much enhanced, and people’s lives here will be bettered.

Now what’s the Anti Corruption Hotline number again?

[1] pdf document in Arabic

  • Samboosa
    23 September 2007

    Salman Ba7ar wants to fight corruption? Thats like Pamela Anderson fighting against over-sexualisation.

  • Capt. Arab
    23 September 2007

    Corruption exists everywhere, not just in those accused. Our systems, process handling, authorities should be re-engineered and fine tuned. Only then will our cookie jar be safe and utilized fairly, wisely and be held accountable. Two thumbs up to The Crown Prince for such a bold statement, that might rattle the cages of some. Let’s see more of the “name and shame” in the news.. Ali BaBa and his forty thieves might be taking an extra long vacation.

  • I
    24 September 2007

    Wasn’t there supposed to be a full sports city built between Isa Town and Riffa? Due to apparent corruption and hands in the jar, only the national stadium was built. Where did the money go?

    What about the massive con that was the Summer promotion five years ago? Four million dollars (or was it dinars) was spent on ‘Bear in the Blue House’ . . . IN ENGLISH ! Just what the country needs when the majority of the audience speak Arabic. And the Space Shuttle, the Russian Buran that never had a manned launch and is still festering in a yard somewhere in the country. The estimate for the production and staging of the whole ‘summer of fun’ promotion (or whatever it was called) was estimated at one quarter of what was paid. Where did the other three million disappear to?

    It would be very beneficial if corruption was finally curtailed in the country and transparency ruled the roost. I don’t think this is a breath-holding exercise though.
    I wish the CP the very best of luck for having the bottle to speak out. Lets just hope that the right people listen, and more importantly, act on his words.

  • Kiwi Nomad
    24 September 2007

    Corruption appears to be pervasive in Ministries and companies within the country. But of course its adherents don’t necessarily view it as corruption, but the way business is usually done here.

    If you want to seriously tackle corruption there must be reform of the legal system to ensure corruption cases are brought to court and prosecuted and justice is meted out. Name one Bahraini that is serving time for corruption!

    Which brings me to my second point, there should be one law applied for all. Not different applications of the same law depending on wasta / race / nationality / sex, etc. As a high-profile unrelated example, why is the Bahraini owner of the sunken dhow incident able to get off imprisonment with the payment of bail, and yet the Indian captain who followed his boss’s orders is languishing in prison?

    To stamp out corruption requires a massive change in peoples attitudes and this takes a long time to bring about. But to start, there has to be prosecution of high-profile cases to send an undisputed message that no one is immune from prosecution. I can’t see this happening when there are certain people above the laws of the land, and therefore what example of leadership are they providing? Unfortunately, it is culturally inappropriate to name the elephant in the room. To put it bluntly, there will therefore be little real change in Bahrain until certain people step aside and peacefully retire with their honour and dignity intact – that’s the Arab way.

    Another aspect that is often overlooked is that for many business managers, unethical behaviour is a result of poor remuneration through ethical means. What I mean is that as senior management are not paid particularly well, or more to the point, are not monetarily incentivised to perform well, they look for other ways to enrich themselves. So they will look to take a cut of a deal personally as a way of getting the riches they believe they are entitled to if they feel that is the only way that they can make money. This is where enlightened HR policies and reward structures should be used in organisations to encourage managers to behave ethically, and reward them for doing so.

    Corruption, like most complex issues, cannot be simply solved with edicts or one broad sweep of the brush, but involves a many faceted approach to reform.

  • mahmood
    24 September 2007

    But to start, there has to be prosecution of high-profile cases to send an undisputed message that no one is immune from prosecution. I can’t see this happening when there are certain people above the laws of the land, and therefore what example of leadership are they providing? Unfortunately, it is culturally inappropriate to name the elephant in the room.

    Another route to start the ball rolling too is for all top officials to middle managers to declare their wealth and to make public what their salaries and remuneration packages are. That way, an audit bureau could be formed to ensure that no illicit enrichment has taken place between the time the authentic declaration is made and subsequent review years, and when a disparity does actually get recognised, then the law must be applied to its full extent and throw that person in prison for corruption should he or she be convicted of such crime.

    We know for instance how much the King of Morocco gets – about $20k per month as published in their accounts the last time I read – but the Royal Court here refuses to declare their expenditure in writing. Heck, during the last term how that figure was passed to parliament was a literal whisper to the ear of the head of the finance committee and parliament was not allowed to question it at all!

    I don’t know what one would classify that incident as, but it certainly does sound fishy.

    So if we are to be really serious and not continue to lose credibility when high officials talk about corruption in our country, maybe they should do the right thing and make an example of themselves and their circles first.

    For instance, it would be really courageous and would show immense pioneering vision and increase his credibility immensely should the Crown Prince declare his worth, his salary, business interests and his court’s annual budget and its disbursement.

    That would most certainly set an unequivocal lead and will be recorded in history very much in his favour.

  • Ali
    24 September 2007

    Just wondering.. Would he start with his father’s ‘Dear Uncle’?

    Have a look. Click here.

  • المنامة
    24 September 2007

    وكالة أنباء البحرين
    ملك البحرين يعيين وزيرين جديدين للاعلام والصحة
    نشرت : September 24, 2007
    المنامة فى 24 سبتمبر / بنا / صدر عن حضرة صاحب الجلالة الملك حمد بن عيسى ال خليفه ملك مملكة البحرين مرسوم ملكى لسنة 2007 بتعيينات وزارية هذا نصه :

    نحن حمد بن عيسى ال خليفة ملك مملكة البحرين ، بعد الاطلاع على الدستور وعلى المرسوم الملكى رقم 91 لسنة 2006 بتشكيل الوزارة وبناء على عرض رئيس مجلس الوزراء رسمنا بالاتى :
    المادة الاولى ، يعين كل من :
    / سعادة السيد جهاد بن حسن ابراهيم بوكمال وزيرا للاعلام.

    / سعادة الدكتور فيصل بن يعقوب الحمر وزيرا للصحة.

    المادة الثانية ، على رئيس مجلس الوزراء تنفيذ هذا المرسوم ويعمل به اعتبارا من تاريخ صدوره وينشر فى الجريدة الرسمية.

    // بنا // // يتبع // م ع 2042 24

    25 September 2007

    Corruption is all around us, there are hundereds of cases of it, and its stifling our economy pretty extremely. I’m happy to see that statement, and I really hope it gets followed with action. Looking at everything thats been in the news the past few weeks, I think Bahrain is about to go through a strong phase of change…

‘Tis the Season