Bahrain govt urged to get tough on public spending
Manama, January 22, 2014
Bahraini MPs yesterday urged the government to be more accountable in how it spends public money amid claims of secrecy, overspending and potential mismanagement.
It is the seventh closing budget statement in a row that has been rejected by parliament, which accused authorities of providing ambiguous figures without detailed breakdowns, improperly estimating the cost of projects and not sticking to spending limits, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
They rejected similar reports for 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, 2010 and 2011 for the same reasons.
MPs have also demanded Bapco revenues and spending not be included in national budget and those of the Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company added instead.
Finance Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa told MPs during their weekly session that the Financial Audit Bureau, which regulates government spending, had never found anything wrong.
“Bahrain’s system of accounts is different from other countries and we deal with money flow, which doesn’t include assets or property, because we don’t have an actual value for it,” he said.
“But, that doesn’t mean that we are not supervising how things are being run in government-owned companies, because their money is coming from our coffers in the first place.”
Shaikh Ahmed confirmed Bapco’s finances would be separated from the national budget but said such a move would take time.
“Any future project in Bapco, as promised, will not be carried out without parliament’s approval,” he pledged.
MP Isa Al Kooheji accused the government of improperly managing finances, with huge surpluses in some ministries and government bodies and claims of budget deficits and shortages in others.
“For example, the Social Development Ministry has spent 37.3 per cent of its BD21.2 million ($55.9 million) budget, while saying it can’t help the needy or the disabled because it is facing a deficit,” he claimed.
“Another example is the Education Ministry spending 39.6 per cent of its BD29.8 million budget, while everyone knows there are shortages of schools and a failure in providing students with proper education.
“The Health Ministry, which is failing to provide beds for patients and buy proper medical equipment, claimed it was running short of funds and has spent just 18.5 per cent of its BD30 million budget.”
MP Mohammed Al Ammadi also questioned the level of government borrowing in the last 10 years, with BD16 billion being taken in loans to cover an average estimated accumulative deficit of BD7 billion.
The closing budget statement will now be reviewed by the Shura Council, alongside the financial accounts of the Future Generations Fund.
Meanwhile, parliament postponed discussions on the Financial Audit Bureau report until next week’s session despite the presence of five ministers and more than 30 government officials.
Shaikh Ahmed could also be quizzed about alleged violations in the report.
It was revealed last month that several officials facing court have already been suspended, while violations cited in the report have been referred to the Public Prosecution.
His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier, ordered corruption cases to be investigated in co-operation with the Interior Ministry’s anti-corruption and economic and electronic security directorate. - TradeArabia News Service