Nod to conflict-of-interests bill ‘fortifies’ transparency

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Move aims to safeguard integrity of public employees

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 20: The National Assembly mourned the death of former MP Khalaf Dumaither Al-Anzi and former Minister of Commerce and Industry Helal Al-Mutairi at the beginning of its ordinary session on Tuesday. Assembly Speaker Ahmed Al-Saadoun expressed his condolences to the families of Al-Azmi and Al- Mutairi, as well as the people of Kuwait; while Minister of State for National Assembly, Housing and Urban Development Affairs Ammar Al-Ajmi affirmed that the government expresses the same. He implored Allah Almighty to have mercy on Al-Azmi and Al-Mutairi. Meanwhile, the Assembly approved the following bills during the session:

■ Second reading of the Conflict of Interests Bill with 57 votes in favor and one vote against. The bill, which was referred to the government, obligates public sector employees to submit their statements of assets and liabilities in case of conflict of interest due to contracting with any of their relatives up to the second degree. The bill stipulates that those proven involved in conflict of interests without mentioning it in the statement of assets and liabilities shall be penalized — maximum of three years imprisonment or a fine of KD10,000 maximum. The law seeks to safeguard public employees’ integrity.

■ Second reading of the bill on amending Penal Code No. 16/1960 with all those present — a total of 59 attendees — voting in favor. The bill stipulates expanding the coverage of penalties for crimes related to public sector jobs to include legal personalities, such that a new article is added (Article 59).

The additional article states that a legal personality involved in the aforementioned crimes will be obligated to pay double the fine stipulated in Article 22 of Law No. 2/2016 in case the corruption crime is committed on his behalf or under his name, suspension for three years, prohibition from participating in public tenders and contracting with public institutions for three years or permanently, dissolution of the business; while a judicial protector could be appointed to manage the business, and the decision should be published in Kuwait Gazette.

Article 60 of the bill states that a legal personality must pay a fine ranging from KD20,000 to KD100,000 if he submits fake documents or erroneous information or conceals information needed in corruption cases as per Article 22 of Law No. 2/2016. Article 61 states that the penalties for a legal personality do not replace those applied on ordinary persons.

■ Request of the government to postpone for some weeks the discussion on the report about the proposal to waive off citizens’ loans. A number of MPs objected to the decision of the speaker to approve the request without discussing it with the MPs. MP Saleh Ashour said the government is hindering the passage of the bill on buying the citizen’s loans, while it participates in Jordan’s forum on granting donations to Iraq although the latter’s budget is three times that of Kuwait.

■ Request of several MPs to expedite the completion of bill on the cancellation of Article 80 of Public Institution for Social Security Law number 61/1976 for inclusion in the agenda of the ordinary session scheduled for January 10, 2023. On the other hand, the Assembly discussed the report of the Housing Affairs Committee about the proposed establishment of real estate companies to implement housing projects. Chairman of the committee MP Hassan Jawhar highlighted the advantages of the proposal as follows:

■ Flexibility on the part of the Public Authority for Housing Welfare (PAHW) in sealing deals;

■ Benefits for the strategic partner and national shareholders who will receive some of the profits,

■ Permanent solutions to the housing issue, considering the PAHW will be granted the authority to lay down regulations on negotiations with the international companies and ownership of the so-called ‘golden share’;

■ Address loopholes in the existing law like the negative consequences of variation orders, delayed completion of projects and difficulties in dealing with infrastructures contractors;

■ Obligating the strategic partner to be careful in order to maintain the competitive position and good reputation, which will reflect positively on the quality of constructions;

■ Surplus housing units that could be allotted for other categories such as divorced Kuwaiti women, widows and unmarried, in addition to citizens who sold their houses;

■ Save huge money allocated for the infrastructure as the cost will be reduced due to the strategically long term partnership with contractors. The strategic partner will provide a large percentage of the needed cash which will help in the provision of housing loans — higher than the current amount of KD 70,000.

Jawhar affirmed that the committee is also studying bills on ensuring the sustainability of real estate loans granted by Kuwait Credit Bank and the establishment of a national real estate bank with additional banking advantages. Rapporteur of the committee MP Abdulaziz Al-Saqaabi disclosed the PAHW currently owns land that is big enough for the construction of 170,000 to 200,000 houses; while the current demand is only 90,000. This means the problem is not the lack of land, but the lack of cash for infrastructure works. A residential city consisting of 30,000 to 40,000 houses need infrastructure at a cost ranging from KD2 billion to KD3 billion. The traditional method of allocating the budget for infrastructure entails a waiting period of almost eight years, he revealed. In addition, the Assembly approved the following incoming letters:

■ Request of the Petitions and Complaints Committee chairman to refer Petition No. 165 to the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee which is in charge of such a petition as per Article 156 of the National Assembly Law;

■ Request of several MPs for the Public Funds Protection Committee to look into the continuous losses of Kuwait Investment Office in London, which is under Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), and submit its report to the Assembly within the coming months;

■ Request of the chairman of the factfinding committee tasked to investigate the dismissal of several officers from the training course at the Ministry of Defense to inquire about the grace period granted to the committee to complete its report until the end of the current parliamentary year;

■ Request of several MPs for the Environment, Water and Food Security to investigate the complaints of those residing in Sabah Al-Ahmad City and Northwest Sulaibikhat and reports of the concerned monitoring institutions on the alleged environmental violations in both areas. These MPs stressed the need to make sure the fuel used in Doha Power Plant meets the criteria and does not cause pollution;

■ Request of MP Shuaib Shaaban for the Public Facilities Committee to discuss with the concerned institutions the problems at the main entrance of Jaber Al-Sabah City (between Jaber Al-Ahmad City and Northwest Suliabikhat), and its report should be submitted to the Assembly within three months;

■ Request of MPs Abdulaziz Al-Saqaabi and Muhannad Al-Sayer for the Youth and Sports Committee to follow up the demand of Kuwait Cycling Club to allocate cycling tracks in cooperation with the Kuwait Municipality, Public Authority for Youth, Ministry of Interior and Sports, Public Authority for Roads and Transportation (PART) and PAHW.

By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff

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