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MPs to probe Airbus, power plant deals

KUWAIT CITY, Feb 5: Kuwait’s parliament on Wednesday ordered probes into a $2.5 billion (1.8 billion euro) power plant contract and a deal with Airbus to purchase 25 aircraft and lease 12 others. Twenty-one MPs out of 36 present approved a proposal to ask the parliament’s legal committee to investigate “all deals” being undertaken by stateowned Kuwait Airways Company (KAC). MPAdnan Abdulsamad said the probe is “necessary amid reports that the KAC board has turned down cheaper offers,” without providing further details.

In December, KAC signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus to buy 25 planes and lease 12, with an option to purchase 10 more. The value of the deal has not been disclosed. KAC officials have said the airline has obtained the necessary authorisation from the government. The agreement includes the purchase of 15 A320neo and 10 A350-900 planes with the option to buy 10 more, five from each category, to be delivered in 2019 and 2020.

The final contract for the deal, the first plane order by KAC in more than 20 years, has not yet been signed. Parliament also voted to form a special committee to probe allegations of irregularities in awarding the contract for Al-Zour North Power Plant project.

A consortium comprising Japan’s Sumitomo, France’s GDF Suez and Kuwait’s Abdullah Hamad Al-Sagar and Brothers won the contract. Kuwait’s parliament launched a similar probe last February, but the legislature was dismissed by the constitutional court before the investigation was concluded and fresh elections were held.

The winning consortium signed the final contract with the government in December and construction work has begun. The consortium awarded South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries the contract to construct the power plant and tasked French firm Sidem with building the desalination facility. The National Assembly approved the Judiciary Regulation Bill in its first and second readings on Wednesday.

The bill was then referred to the government for implementation, while deliberations on the proposed amendments to the Ministerial Court Law and the children allowance increment were postponed to pave the way for the revision of the proposals. Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim confirmed the submission of a report on the Private Nursery Bill after it was referred for investigation. He disclosed the report mentioned changes to the content of the proposal; thereby, invalidating the previous vote.

The Assembly agreed to vote again on the second reading of the bill, which was passed on the same day. During the session, the MPs had a heated argument due to the finance minister’s request to postpone discussion on the children allowance increment for a month in order to present a more comprehensive vision and opinion on the bill. MP Yousef Al-Zalzala pointed out the government had more than enough time to discuss this bill amongst its members. He said, “We do not want to engage in arguments, but if the government is serious in passing the bill; we will not mind postponing the discussion.” While the MPs were signing the request, MP Faisal Al-Shaye reminded the Assembly that the government is pushing towards the rejection of the proposal. He urged the Assembly to withdraw the request unless the government is willing to compromise with its legislative counterpart.

Al-Zalzala and MP Mubarak Al- Khurainij deleted their names from the request and this led to the rejection of the proposed postponement of deliberations on the bill. Expressing disappointment over the rejection of the request, Minister of Oil Dr Ali Al-Omair queried the Assembly on how to discuss the bill if the government has yet to receive the report of the Financial Committee in this regard. He said, “We only wish the best for the public.” Some MPs tried to defuse tension between the government and MPs, while others asserted that the government is just giving lame excuses and wasting time. MP Abdulhamid Dashti appealed to his colleagues; telling them that “we do not want any argument over the request.” MP Jamal Al-Omar argued Al-Omair’s made a logical statement; hence, the need to find appropriate solutions rather than engaging in heated debates. Meanwhile, MP Hussain Al-Quwaian addressed the minister of oil; firmly stating, “The government was present when the report was being written, so you cannot excuse yourself and say the report has not reached the authority.”

Agreeing with MP Al-Quwaian, MP Riyadh Al-Adsani stressed the government is in disarray. He suggested voting on the bill in its first reading and if the government has any comment or amendment, this should be tackled in the second reading. In a bid to calm down everyone, MP Hamad Al-Hershani said the adamant behavior did not accomplish anything during the tenure of the last dissolved Assembly. “We will not achieve anything here today, so we have to stop this show; for it will not yield positive results,” he added. Head of the Financial Committee MP Faisal Al-Shaye argued the government will only reject the bill if it is put to vote; therefore, as head of the committee, he requested for the withdrawal of the report on the bill to be returned to the panel. The Assembly approved of Al-Shaye’s request, putting an end to the dispute. The discussion then moved to the amendment of the Ministerial Court Law and the Judiciary Regulations Bill; during which the minister of oil asked why the Legislative Committee did not include the government’s opinion in their report regarding the proposed revision of the Ministerial Court Law. This notice stirred up a discussion on the report, prompting MP Riyadh Al-Adsani to call for scrapping the amendment, as well as the dissolution of the Ministerial Court. He explained the ministers are not different from the public, so they must face judicial procedures like any other citizen. He pointed out that no minister has been convicted since the establishment of the court. In the meantime, Al-Zalzala agreed with the minister of oil and proposed withdrawal of the report to be referred back to the committee. The Assembly approved the recommendation to return the report to the panel for rewriting or revision.

Furthermore, the Assembly unanimously approved the Judiciary Regulation Bill in its first and second readings. The bill stipulates that three judges must handle personal cases, instead of one. In another development, the Assembly approved the formation of temporary committees, which include the National Human Resources Committee with MPs Abdulkareem Al-Kandari, Yagoub Al- Sane, Abdulhamid Dashti and Khaleel Abdullah as members. When the lawmakers discussed the formation of the Studying Negative Phenomena Committee, some MPs admitted they were confused about the functions of the panel. MPAbdullah Al-Tamimi then requested for clarifications on the tasks of the committee. He asked if wearing jeans is considered a negative phenomenon. MPNabeel Al-Fadel argued a number of similar committees were formed in the past, but they were all practically useless. He urged the Assembly to focus on more important permanent committees. Clearing the confusion, MP Hamoud Al-Hamdan explained that the committee will look into incidents or activities which violate Islamic teachings, culture and law. The committee was approved with MPs Saleh Ashour, Nabeel Al-Fadel, Hussain Al-Quweian, MP Hamdan Al-Azmi and Saud Al-Huraiji as members.

The Multi-Million Foreign Transfers Committee was also approved and it will be affiliated to the existing Multi-Million Deposits Committee. However, the proposed formation of the Social Insurance Violations Committee was withdrawn. This was followed by the formation of the Women Affairs Committee with MPs Safa Al-Hashem, AbdulKareem Al-Kandari, Khaleel Abdullah, Ahmed Al-Mutee and Saleh Ashour as members. The Human Rights Committee was also formed, consisting of MPs Faisal Al- Duwaisan, Faisal Al-Shaye, Adnan Abdulsamad and Abdulkareem Al- Kandari. A committee tasked to investigate the contract on Al-Zour Northern plant was formed with MPs Talal Al-Jallaal, Khalaf Dumeteer, Faisal Al-Kandari, Mubarak Al- Hurais and Abdulhameed Dashti as members. After this, the Assembly discussed the proposal to form a temporary committee to investigate the purchase of five used aircraft by Kuwait Airways Corporation but the MPs realized there are a number of temporary panels being formed. The speaker reiterated that the presence of several temporary committees might have a negative impact on the work of the permanent panels. MP Jamal Al-Omar agreed with the speaker, adding that, “We are currently facing the issue of attendance in the permanent committees. The formation of many temporary committees will only worsen the situation.” Despite the apprehension over the formation several temporary panels, the Assembly continued forming the Youth and Sports Committee with MPs Abdullah Al-Turaiji, Rakan Al-Nusf, Khaleel Al- Saleh, Jamal Al-Omar, Askar Al-Enizi and Awda Al-Ruweie as members. On the other hand, majority of the parliamentarians rejected the proposal to form a panel to investigate the Kuwait Stock Market violations and the session was adjourned

By: Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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