Bahrain may set up graft watchdog
Manama , January 14, 2012
Bahrain is likely to set up an independent commission to fight corruption in the country amid renewed calls from The Bahrain Transparency Society (BTS), said officials.
BTS said corruption had become a worldwide issue and many countries were taking measures to address their problems and Bahrain would do well to follow suit.
Although the country has ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) last year, it will need to take further steps to ensure it meets its obligations, said BTS president Abdulnabi Al Ekri.
'It binds the signatory to establish an independent commission on corruption and have local legislation to enforce it, but this hasn't happened yet,' Al Ekri stated.
'They are now accountable, they are a party and bound by this treaty and they have to make a report in 2014 on its implementation,' he added.
The BTS had called for a commission to be set up in 2008 and a draft law to establish one was submitted by Al Wefaq, but has since been shelved.
Al Ekri said the Financial Integrity Law was the only anti-corruption legislation that had been passed, but it was not applicable to His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa or the Financial Audit Bureau chief.
'But actually this law isn't being implemented because I haven't heard of any minister, including the ministers who came after this law was passed, who declared his fortune,' remarked Al Ekri.
'We need dramatic change in the political environment because now there is imbalance, if you have reforms there will be new government and new parliament,' he stated
Al Ekri said corruption in the country needed to be tackled seriously and the extent of the problem could be seen in Bahrain's ranking in Transparency International's 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index.
He said although it had moved up two places, the country was still not doing enough to combat corruption in government and private sectors.
Al Ekri said recent examples of corruption happened during the unrest and also referred to the privatisation of public land and alleged corruption in Alba and Gulf Air, among other state companies.
'Bahrain advanced two places, from 48 to 46 (in the report), but still it's in the red line because if you are more than 30 in the ranking you are in the red line,' said Al Ekri.
'There is a little improvement but still this needs to be addressed.'
Worldwide, he said, there was awareness about corruption. 'It is a world crisis now, it has toppled two elected prime ministers in Greece and Italy, it is unprecedented,' he added.
'Corru ption is like a beast eating the international economy and ordinary people's interests. In 2010 and 2011 there was a worldwide move to acknowledge corruption, to dig in to that, especially by international financial institutions.'
'There are measures taken at the international level, one of the results is the return of fortunes and assets, particularly in the Arab world and Africa,' he said.-TradeArabia News Service