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UNDOUBTEDLY, there are many files that the new era is supposed to work on in order to achieve transparency in the management of public money, and to combat corruption that has struck the roots of almost all institutions in the country.
One of the most important of these files, of course after “wasta” and the corrupt job appointments, is the cost of state projects. This needs a complete review from the last three decades until today because of the manipulation that cannot be condoned.
In this regard, there is an anecdote circulating in the country. An American official met a Kuwaiti official, and while they were talking, the American said, “Look at that project. It cost us a million dollars, which is a very high cost, we think”.
Months later, the American official visited Kuwait and met the same official. The Kuwaiti official said to him, “Look at that project”. The American said, “I don’t see any project. It is an empty land”. The Kuwaiti said, “That’s right. This project cost us KD20 million”.
The American commented, “Now I know why the Arabs are not advancing”. The Kuwaiti’s response was, “This is an Arab industry. A road does not cost more than KD 300,000, but commissions and change orders increase the price. Because we need to maintain it every year, we put bad asphalt, and so everyone siphons from the project”.
In one of the reports issued by the Arabian Gulf Center for Studies and Research on the overt and covert corruption in Kuwait, a total of 20 sectors were considered as most wasteful of public money and systematic looting. The most prominent of them is the Ministry of Public Works, as it wastes not only money, but also time. This increases the consequent losses in the various institutions of the country.
There are projects that are priced more than two or three times their cost. This is due to the fact that some of those in charge of it have “a wide liability”. They are anchored by quotas, which means that this company obtains a specific project after it pays “handouts” to other competing companies, and compensates for this with change orders, and the poor quality of the materials used, while there are other projects that are monopolized by some companies.
According to estimates, the annual losses incurred by the public money annually amount to hundreds of millions of dinars, which go to friends and loved ones.
Kuwait suffers from this systematic looting of public money, whereas Bahrain, the Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman have remedied the matter a long time ago.
In the UAE for example, when officials discovered that a company had tampered with a project, they arrested all of its owners and referred them to the court, which sentenced them to prison and reimbursed the sums they had taken from all the projects it had executed in the past years. In Saudi Arabia, the issue of recovering looted money through projects is well known.
In all these countries, the method of awarding and supervising tenders was reconsidered, and project costs were reduced, which saved tens of billions, but in Kuwait, the oversight bodies are still “staggering”.
Perhaps these oversight bodies were also infected with the disease of corruption, and they also need treatment, as is the case with other corrupt sectors.
O leaders of the new era, addressing this matter is the first step in the path of transparency. Dealing with it firmly increases the citizens’ reassurance that we have entered a new era, especially after the bold measures that followed the decisive speech of His Highness the Amir.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times
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