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Monday , September 28 2020

MPs told to submit financial disclosures

Bill to amend Public Money Law

Arab Times Staff KUWAIT CITY, July 26: The Secretariat General of the National Assembly has asked the MPs to submit their financial disclosures to Kuwait Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha). Nazaha employees will be in the Assembly building starting from Tuesday to receive the financial disclosures of MPS. It has been reported that about half of the MPs submitted their financial disclosures in March 2020, but the rest failed to do so due to the coronavirus crisis.

Meanwhile, MPs Abdullah Al-Romi, Abdulkareem Al-Kandari and Riyadh Al-Adasani submitted a bill to amend the Public Money Law. The bill obligates the Public Prosecution to publish the reasons behind withholding lawsuits against public officials like ministers and senior officials who are accused of corruption.

The reasons should be published in at least two daily newspapers five days in a row. The MPs pointed out that the bill aims to enhance the independence and dignity of the Judicial Authority and reassure society that the verdicts are just.

In another development, MP Hamdan Al- Azmi said the government will appear submissive to those who interpret judicial immunity based on their personal views in case the government returns the bill on appeal against the misconduct of judges. He argued that the government voted in favor of the bill after hearing the opinions of experts and relevant institutions. He stressed the bill will be passed even if the government returns it to the Assembly because it is in line with the Constitution.

On the other hand, MP Riyadh Al-Adasani emphasized the importance of taking quick procedures to address the financial situation of the country. He said the government must transfer part of the assets of the Future Generations Fund to the Public Reserve Fund.

He pointed out this action is temporary and it will generate about KD 1.8 to KD 2 billion. He went on to say that other steps must be taken such as collecting the seized gains and amending the decree on calculating oil production cost in order to reduce it, indicating this cost is deducted from the gains of oil producing companies. He added he submitted these suggestions in March 2020 but they were not considered, warning that the situation will worsen if such steps are delayed further.

He cited as one of the effects of the delay the decline of Kuwait’s credit classification from AA+ to AA – according to S&P. He said the negative results include decline of cash in the Public Reserve Fund from KD 5 billion in March to KD.3 billion in June and KD 700 million in July. He also disclosed that among the suggested solutions are the need to reorder priorities, rationalize public expenditures and full commitment to the items of the budget.

The parliamentary Budgets and Final Accounts recently held a meeting with the Ministry of Finance officials to continue deliberations on the public budget. Committee Chairman MP Adnan Abdulsamad disclosed the number of meetings has been reduced due to coronavirus, indicating most of the meetings – online and traditional – are with officials of the ministry and employees in the Technical Office of the committee.

He affirmed the recent meeting was held as per the agreement between the Technical Office and officials of the ministry.

According to the lawmaker, the committee suggested reducing the public budget by 20 percent due to the oil price decline. He explained the estimated budget was based on the projected average oil price – $55 per barrel; while the actual average price is $43 per barrel so the revenues are expected to decrease remarkably. He then urged the public institutions to respond to the demand of the committee to reduce their expenditures, considering the exceptional circumstances that the country is currently facing.

He revealed the committee expects the government to submit a bill on suspending the deduction of 10 percent from the State’s revenues for the Future Generations Fund. He is hoping for immediate submission of the bill as it will support the Public Reserve Fund, which is the main resource to cover part of the budget deficit.

He also clarified that although the committee supports the exceptional demands of the Health Ministry, it does not mean allowing the ministry to have extravagant expenditures. He said the ministry should not take advantage of the crisis to spend money without control. He added the committee asked the Ministry of Finance to submit the list of projects specified by various public institutions and ministries in order to check them and make sure they are related to the fight against coronavirus. He admitted he is afraid that most of these projects have nothing to do with coronavirus, so the committee asked the State Audit Bureau (SAB) to review all the projects including those approved by the Council of Ministers to ensure they are aimed at developing the health system. He went on to say that the Ministry of Health did not stick to the budget for overseas treatment, disclosing foreign hospitals are demanding a total of KD 350 million as payment for services provided to Kuwaiti patients. He affirmed the ministry responded to the recommendation to minimize petty cash expenditures and this must be within the budget.

He said the demands of the ministry require further auditing; citing as examples the request for KD 355 million budget for medicines and KD 155 million improve the strategic stock. He argued these demands are apart from the KD 500 million allocated for coronavirus, adding that the ministry already spent KD 262 million out of this amount.

He urged SAB and the Financial Controllers Bureau (FCB) to intensify their monitoring efforts, indicating a budget of KD 242 million is needed to finance the additional subsidy which will be granted to Kuwaiti employees for six months.

On the other hand, Abdulsamad praised the response of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Anas Al-Saleh to the comments of the committee. He confirmed that Al-Saleh formed a committee to investigate issues raised by the committee, asserting the minister should implement the recommendations of the committee.

By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh

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