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13 April 2024

Saudi to hunt “big heads” in anti-corruption drive

By Staff

Saudi Arabia’s newly created anti-corruption body has vowed to target “big heads” in its campaign to stamp out mismanagement and other malpractices at public establishments, saying there would be no exception.

The National Authority for Combating Corruption (NACC) dismissed local reports that its role would be restricted to minor corruption cases and complement that of the country’s General Auditing Bureau (GAB).

“We will not hesitate to strike at corruption wherever it is,” NACC’s Chairman Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Sharif was quoted by the local press as saying.

“Our crackdown will target small and big heads…no one, whoever he is, will be excluded in line with instruction by King Abdullah.”

He said the task of “hunting corrupt people” should not be confined to the Authority as it should also be undertaken by the public.

“Every one has a role to play in this respect whether he is an official, a businessman, a citizen, a journalist or a scholar…the Kingdom’s anti-corruption strategy also stresses that school curricula must include lessons advocating sincerity and protection of public funds.”

NACC was created by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia last year to fight financial abuses at government offices following reports of a surge in corruption cases in the largest Arab economy and the world’s oil basin.

In a recent report, GAB said public institutions are suffering from low performance because of bribe and other corruption practices adding that this is putting pressure on the Gulf country ’s coffers.

It said the flood disaster that hit the Western Red Sea port of Jeddah in 2010 exposed such flaws in government departments, which are also suffering from the absence of clear policies.

“What happened in Jeddah clearly illustrated the poor performance of government departments because of bribery and widespread corruption. These institutions are also suffering from the lack of clear policies and action plans besides bureaucratic complications in decision-making…this is only putting pressure on the budget and increasing economist costs.”

Although it was a taboo word only recently, corruption is now debated in public in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf oil producers as part of ongoing economic reforms and social openness.

Most regional nations have started to debate such issues in parliament and there have been several cases of interrogation of senior officials.

Over the past

three years, Saudi newspapers have given expanded coverage to heated Shura (parliament) debates about corruption and abuse of public funds following recurrent Royal statements about the need to fight corruption.