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Saudi airlines probed for financial malpractice

Saudi government auditors are probing the Gulf Kingdom’s official airlines over alleged mismanagement of funds involving overspending of more than SR five billion (Dh4.89bn), according to a Saudi newspaper.

'Okaz' Arabic language daily said examination of the financial accounts of the government-controlled Saudi Arabian Airlines showed spending authorized for the carrier’s officials surpassed SRfive billion.

“Auditors in the country are investigating the expenses files of Saudi Arabian Airlines, especially those involving spending by its officials after the closing accounts showed there is overspending by SRfivebillion,” the paper said without identifying its sources for the report.

Okaz said it tried to contact the airlines officials but they would not answer, adding that the investigation covers all “bills” used by the airline officials in spending. It did not specify the spending period under investigation.

The paper noted that some members of the Shura council (appointed parliament) had described Saudi Arabian Airlines as “an ill system” and that it suffers from many problems which need to be tackled.

“At a recent Shura session, members called for reviewing all reports by the airlines so it will work for developing its operations and upgrade itself to the level of other airlines,” the paper added.

At a recent visit to the airlines, Shura speaker Abdullah Al Shaikh discussed such problems. “They presented a lot of information and I think the airlines knows what to do to tackle its problems…we hope they will answer some questions by Shura and the Saudi citizens…we have not found answers to some issues and the airlines acknowledged this and said they need to be resolved,” Al-Shaikh said recently, quoted by Okaz.

Saudi Arabian Airlines, based in the western Red Sea port of Jeddah, is one of the largest carriers in the Middle East, with a fleet of nearly 150 aircraft. It was set in 1945 as a government venture but it has plans to go public.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s dominant oil power and largest Arab economy, has just created an anti-corruption body on orders by King Abdullah following growing reports about financial malpractices in the country of 27 million people.

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