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Oil minister resigns

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MP panel focus on Health Ministry financial violations

Bakheet Al- Rasheedi

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 17: Kuwait’s Oil Minister Bakheet Al-Rasheedi’s resignation has been accepted by HH the Prime Minister, local newspaper Al-Anbaa said, citing sources. Rasheedi’s departure would not imply any change in the oil policy of Kuwait, which is decided by the country’s Supreme Petroleum Council.

Rasheedi was not immediately available for comment and there was no official confirmation of his resignation. Al-Anbaa didn’t say when Rasheedi presented his resignation to His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al- Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary Budget and Final Accounts Committee has stressed the need to correct financial violations in the Health Ministry as per the reports of the State Audit Bureau (SAB) and Kuwait Financial Auditors Agency.

Committee Chairman MP Adnaan Abdulsamad disclosed that after discussing the 2017/2018 final accounts of the ministry, Health Minister Bassil Al-Sabah and his undersecretary affirmed their commitment to correct irregularities through what they described as ‘open-door’ policy; considering most of the violations occurred before their tenure at the ministry.

The committee said most violations were found in the overseas treatment sector which has an estimated expenditure of KD 235 million — far more than the given budget of KD 111 million. The ministry did not present these figures to the monitoring bodies before transferring funds abroad and SAB has not been given the opportunity to review these transfers; thereby, exacerbating the situation and complicating the correction process. Furthermore, the committee discovered KD 360 million expenditures on medicines — the highest in the last 10 fiscal years.

This raises more questions as the amount does not match the population growth. The ministry justified these expenditures by citing the remarkable increase in the prices of treatments and medicines for infectious diseases.

According to the financial auditors at the Ministry of Finance, the Health Ministry departments in charge of purchases have repeatedly committed violations such as executing orders without the approval of the Finance Ministry. This is supported by SAB through its own records and monitoring efforts; indicating the violations reached the point of endangering public health, let alone the squandering of public funds.

By Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff and Agencies