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Kuwait - Corruption

Conservative elements are at the forefront of corruption allegations against the Government. While conservatives regularly assert that Kuwaiti leadership is corrupt, liberals generally focus their criticism on the fact that it is simply weak. Corruption permeates the top ranks of Kuwaiti government, heavily influences political decision-making, and blocked progress on important legislation.

By 2008 widespread rumors of election engineering and vote buying led to familiar calls for Al Sabah family operatives such as Shaykh Ahmed Al-Fahd, Shaykh Athbi Fahd Al-Ahmad (the Amir's nephew) and Mohammed Abdullah Al-Mubarak (the grandson of Amir Mubarak the Great) - the so-called "trio of corruption" - to leave the country. Nevertheless, vote buying was reaching historic proportions in Kuwait, with votes rumored to be worth KD 1,000 (USD 3,700) a piece.

The main source of corruption in Kuwait is the parliament. While election mechanics in Kuwait are free of corruption, there is a great deal of "vote buying." Traditionally, vote buying was straightforward and candidates had ways of checking to make sure the voter voted as he promised. However, as verification became more difficult, other forms of vote buying appeared. For instance, a candidate offers to fix up a constituent's diwaniyya or facilitates the constituent's getting medical treatment abroad at government expense. There is a gray line between which of these cases are truly vote buying and which are normal politics. The important point is that MPs use their positions of influence to dole out services in exchange for loyalty. A number of MPs are backed by powerful business interests and successfully lobby to help them get government contracts.

Corruption emerged as the central issue in the 29 June 2006 parliamentary elections. Allegations of vote-buying are common and often politically-motivated, but there is no doubt that some candidates attempt to influence voters with bribes. Nonetheless, the intensity of the campaigning and politicking in these elections did not suggest a system rife with corruption and Kuwaitis view their democratic process as legitimate. There is also a potentially positive side to the corruption, which many blame on members of the ruling Al-Sabah family: it has caused a pro-reform backlash that threatens to bring down those who engage in efforts to manipulate voting behavior. To an unprecedented degree, candidates from all political backgrounds have united against corruption and in support of reform. They are backed by a groundswell of popular support and the intense lobbying activities of pro-reform youth organizations.

The rapid rise in oil prices and the accompanying oil boom fueled corruption in Kuwait. In 2003, when the last elections were held, the price of Kuwaiti crude was roughly $27 per barrel, government revenue was $24.28 billion and expenditures were $19.33 billion. By 2006, the price of Kuwaiti crude was $60.82 per barrel, and in 2005 government revenue was $47 billion and expenditures were $26 billion. These figures have not been adjusted for inflation. Despite measures to appease the public such as the 2005 cancellation of outstanding electric bills and a 200 KD ($700) rebate to citizens, Kuwaitis are increasingly beginning to ask where all this money is going. Many cite the water shortage plaguing the country as an indication of endemic infrastructure problems and poor planning by the Government. These factors play into the widespread impression that members of the Government and the ruling family are enriching themselves at the expense of the country.

Corruption in government contracts as particularly pervasive. Most if not all government contracts involve some level of corruption. Corruption at ministries is in the form of bribes for licenses and permits. While judges in Kuwait were not corrupt, the bureaucracy of the judicial branch was a significant source of corruption as well.

The often lengthy procurement process in Kuwait occasionally results in accusations of attempted bribery or the offering of other inducements by bidders. These constitute crimes in Kuwait and there are currently several investigations and trials underway involving current or former government officials accused of malfeasance. In 1996, the government passed Law No. 25, which requires all companies securing contracts with the government valued at KD 100,000 (USD 364,931) or more to report all payments made to Kuwaiti agents or advisors while securing the contract. The law similarly requires entities and individuals in Kuwait to report any payments they received as compensation for securing government contracts.

Transparency International's 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranked Kuwait 54 out of 180 countries. Kuwait was ranked fourth in the Arab region out of 18 countries, and second to last among the Gulf nations. Kuwait's CPI score of 4.6 (out of 10) indicates it has a "serious corruption problem," according to Transparency International.

The law mandates criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and on occasion officials were believed to have engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The Audit Bureau is the government agency responsible for combating government corruption. Although the bureau and a government-formed committee reported various allegations of corruption and irregularities during the year, there were no public high-profile corruption cases before the courts. The parliament also frequently announced inquiries into suspected misuses of public funds, but none resulted in prosecution during the year. Opinion polls conducted in 2010 indicated a decline in the public’s faith in the government’s ability to control corruption.

In September 2011 media outlets reported allegations of “irregularities” including suspicious deposits of millions of dollars into the personal bank accounts of several members of parliament. At year’s end the public prosecutor was investigating at least 15 parliamentarians in conjunction with the case.

There were many reports about individuals having to pay intermediaries in order to receive routine government services. Additionally, police corruption was a problem, especially when one party to a dispute had a personal relationship with a police official involved in a case. Widespread reports indicated that police showed favoritism towards citizens versus noncitizens.

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Page last modified: 07-12-2012 19:16:03 ZULU