NO ONE in Kuwait doubts the integrity of His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah or his good intentions to fight corruption. He is exerting great efforts in this fight, but not everyone who exerts wins.
The questions in the minds of many Kuwaitis are: Considering that this government has just a few months left, will it really be able to solve all the files presented to it? Will it be able to remove the widespread corruption sediments in most of the state’s joints that existed for almost half a century? And most important of all, can it eliminate the systemic corruption?
In Kuwait, we all know where the weakness lies in the blueprint of fighting corruption and how it works, even though we have been hearing for quite some time that the law will be applied on everyone without exception, and that justice will take its course. However, we have neither seen any corrupt person being convicted nor the plans of those looting the public funds and circumventing the institutions being foiled.
Worst of all, the scandals often start with media hype followed by a lot of talk. Then we suddenly hear about another scandal, which makes us forget the first one. This will be followed by another scandal that makes us forget the first two scandals. This has been the drift of matters for the past 50 years.
Undoubtedly, this is based on three convictions that the Kuwaitis believe in. The first one is that Kuwait is blessed, and we pray for it to continue that way. Secondly, time solves problems; hence, all the problems are left to be solved by time.
The third conviction, which is the most important, is what is known as “Khamosh”. This is a Persian word which refers to a person who works silently behind the curtains and plans clandestinely. This is prevalent in major state projects. For instance, when the state floats a tender for a major project worth let’s say a billion dinars, the shill bidders first take the initiative to win it. After that, several big fish approach the shill bidders and ask them to raise the bid to KD 1.7 billion. Then these big fish present bids which are less by let’s say KD 2 million, which enables them to win the tender and pay “a cut” to the shill bidders.
The matter does not stop there, as this “Khamosh” approach works to increase profits through what is known as “variation orders”, rendering the cost of the project to double and also prolong the timeline to even more than ten years, since the project has become the milking cow.
Your Highness the Prime Minister, this is one of the various types of systemic corruption. Of course, your team will not be able to eliminate this phenomenon because “Khamosh” is stronger than the governments. Also, the policy of “your wish is my command” has a powerful effect in all public institutions.
Your Highness, does the government have a serious intention to tackle this file and stop this type of corruption? Or are the wings of the officials broken when it comes to dealing with the big fish that feeds the mouth?
Furthermore, can the government prevent subcontracting of projects? We all know that this kind of mechanism is based on reducing the quality of the product.
Legally speaking, these actions could be deemed non-criminal, as the laws have not evolved for the past 50 years including the law of tenders, prosecution, or even the Penal Code.
By the way, this law, Your Highness, is a sword brandished at the journalists, especially Article 14 of Law No. 31/1970. Some ministers tried to apply it with Al-Seyassah newspaper when it exposed the escape of 15 people who were wanted for justice in the so-called “Abdali Cell” case. The following day, the Ministry of Interior had confirmed the news.
Frankly, there is no clear legal mechanism to prosecute looters of the public funds who get reprieves whenever they are asked to swear.
We heard about the Malaysian Fund scandal, which was followed shortly after by the file of the Bangladeshi MP, then the visa trading file gets opened, and soon after the money laundering network gets exposed … is this a coincidence or all these scandals just smoke bombs to cover other scandals?
Kuwaitis are well aware of this method of pain relief, so they expect all these files to be concluded either through dismissal due to insufficient evidence or sink into oblivion, while the river of looting and corruption continues to run profusely.
All these facts are before you, Your Highness. They were present on the table of the previous governments, but they remained unsolved because the hole is wider than the cover, rendering the corruption system to prevail.
Finally, may Almighty Allah offer you assistance, O Your Highness the Prime Minister, for this legacy that you seek in a very short period to eliminate corruption, while “Khamosh” works with all force not only in tenders, but also in forming governments, elections, and job applications. Without any doubt, everyone in the country seeks to identify this hand that is running the show.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times