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Analysis of the Financial Audit Bureau report – part 1

On 10 November 2016 the annual FAB report was issued, investigating failures in administration procedures in all public sector departments, ranging from cases of poor management to incidences of corruption potentially necessitating criminal action.

All departments are obligated to follow up and address the issues raised, with the most serious cases being referred to the public prosecutor. The report is also submitted to Parliament which each year reviews the issues raised and recommends actions to take.

The entries concerning the Supreme Judicial Council, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Culture and Antiquities Authority, the Customs Authority, the Information Affairs Ministry and the Defence Ministry were relatively brief and straightforward. The main issues cited related to overspending of budgets, combined with failures to complete projects within the budget period, often resulting in substantial underspend on project budgets; as well as irregularities concerning staff recruitment, bonuses and contracts.

The Justice Ministry entry noted a number of financial procedural failures, as well as expenditure of only 11% of the projects budget. The report cited incidents where fines and fees were waived in the absence of a clear procedure for doing so.

The report criticized the manner in which the National Institute for Human Rights’ secretary-general resigned in 2014, receiving benefits which the FAB stated he shouldn’t have been entitled to. Despite a 2014 policy for reducing expenditure, decisions taken by the NIHR contradicted this policy; including sending unnecessary numbers of staff on overseas business and using business class tickets. The FAB also found that the NIHR had broken civil service relations for staff bonuses, as well as breaching civil service procedures by failing to consult the civil service on changes to its management structure and staffing procedures.

According to the report, the Jaafari Religious Endowments Administration in 10 years has not been reported to take any action regarding issues cited in FAB reports. The FAB recommended that the Justice Minister investigate the Awqaf director’s decisions concerning property and land rental after a long list of irregularities in rental prices going back 15-20 years; as well as a number of irregularities concerning collection of rent. The FAB also recommended an inquiry regarding the Shaikh Aziz Mosque project.

Below is a department-by-department summary of the major issues cited in the report:

 

Justice Ministry

Budget expenditure

  • Regular expenditures for 2015 exceeded budget by BD 1.2m. The Ministry holds BD 7.4m in surpluses without transferring this to the Finance Ministry.
  • Only 11% of the project budget was spent. The report found there to be improper planning for purchases and violations of the tendering law.

Fines & fees

  • There were discrepancies between records logged with the Justice and Finance Ministries concerning fees from income and fines. The Ministry received BD 3.5m in traffic violations over 10 months. The undersecretary exceeded his powers by approving waivers from fees. No mechanism exists for confirming hardship in cases of waivers from payment of legal fees.
  • Delays in obtaining bail payments from legal rulings.

Equipment

  • Equipment went missing at the legal and judicial training institute – the FAB recommends an investigation.
  • Temporary rental of 4 vehicles since 2011 without documentation.

 

Jaafari Religious Endowments Administration (Awqaf)

Property and land rental

  • The director rented out properties at lower rates, without gaining authorization. The loss of BD 459,000 over 15 years due to renting out properties at lower rates; and the loss of BD 248,000 over 20 years because of renting out land at reduced rates. BD 179,000 losses in rent for a building in Markh because of the directors unilateral rejection of the rent price stipulated by the committee. BD 159,000 losses over 20 years because of rental of land in North Sehla at reduced rates. The tenant has failed to invest in the land rented from the Administration over 19 years. The director neglected to collect BD 46,600 from one tenant.
  • The FAB recommends that the Justice Minister investigates the director’s decisions concerning property and land rental. The Religious Endowments Administration claimed that the Valuation Committees rental rates were “exaggerated”.
  • 236 out of 1,509 Awqaf properties remained unused for 19 years. 21 out of 26 Awqaf properties had received rental requests which hadn’t been investigated. 12 properties were rented out by the director without investigating the contracts. 1,288 properties continued to be rented despite the elapsing of the contracts. 169 requests for renewal of contracts hadn’t been studied by the administration, in one case this went on for 11 years. There were BD 105,000 losses as a result of disparities between contracts in 19 cases. BD 1.1m of recorded property revenues in the third party insurance account hadn’t been logged in the Administration’s account.
  • The Administration’s Valuation Committee reduced the price of two residential compounds from BD 90,000 to 48,000 annually at the instruction of the Maatam director.
  • BD 6.5m in late rental payments up to the end of 2015; a 33% increase on the previous year. One tenant had failed to pay for 4.5 years. One tenant owed BD 1.75 in late rent, but the Administration had not taken action. While the Awqaf took action regarding bounced cheques for tenants going back 3 months; in some cases no action had been taken for bounced cheques going back 39 months.

Other issues

  • The Awqaf made funds available for the Shaikh Aziz Mosque project before signing contracts. The FAB recommends an inquiry by the Justice Minister regarding the Shaikh Aziz Mosque project.
  • 19 Awqaf properties had been illegally used without rent payment and without action from the Administration, despite being cited in the 2011 FAB report.
  • The Awqaf began building a Maatam hall in Muqasha without obtaining a permit, thus wasting BD 30,000. Putting BD 90,000 of granite into storage as a result of incorrect estimations of requirements. The Finance and Investment Committee has only held 3 meetings since August 2013. The Administration has not finalized its accounts for 7 years.
  • On 13 November the Awqaf Administration issued a detailed statement addressing many of the charges raised in the FAB report, which it denounced as a deliberate attempt to undermine its director.

 

National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR)

Personnel

  • The presidency of the Institution offered part time employment to the Secretary-General just a few days after submitting his resignation in April 2014 – despite the nature of the work requiring full time status. The report thus judged that the Sec-Gen had illegitimately been granted a retirement bonus and pension. The sec-gen was then re-employed on a full time basis from August 2014 without going through the proper consultation process. The FAB stated that the sec-gen should therefore return his retirement benefits.
  • One employee was paid a wage of BD 17,000, despite being absent from his job for 7 months. Employees received a 3% bonus; some of whom had only been rated as “good” or “acceptable”; 5% bonuses for staff rated “very good”, or not rated at all. 10% bonus for one staff member rated “acceptable”. Other staff members unnecessarily moved to positions of lower responsibility.

Activities

  • Only 32% of the events agreed by the Institution were actually held during 2014. The human rights training team has reportedly not held any training courses or programmes.

Overseas travel

  • The number of participants in overseas delegations increased; despite the Institution being over budget. For example, there were 6 participants in the 20th annual Asia-Pacific Conference, at a cost of BD 18.800. Overseas travellers purchased business class tickets for flights. The Institution requested BD 270,000 for expenditure for participation in events outside Bahrain.

 

Supreme Judicial Council

  • An increase in bonuses for non-Bahraini staff amounting to BD 500 per person, without the necessary legal authority. This amounts to additional expenditure of BD 805,000 over the course of 2015.
  • The Council overspent its current and recurring expenditure by BD 401,000, from its total budget of BD 12.6m.

 

Culture and Antiquities Authority

  • The report found that BD 151,000 had been paid to workers not formally employed by the Authority. One senior employee between Oct-Dec 2015 was paid BD 133,000, despite being told at the beginning of that period to stop coming into work. Another employee continued to be paid despite working for a completely different department.
  • Only 46% of the project budget has been spent, amounting to BD 4.65m.

 

Information Affairs Ministry

  • The usage of a consultative company to develop a holistic strategy for its National Communications Centre at the cost of BD 3.827m, despite not signing a contract with the centre. The report stated that the nearly BD 1m accrued in fees by this company up to the end of 2015 was in breach of the law.
  • Continuing to do business worth BD 190,000 with a company despite the end of the contract and a failure to gain approval from the tendering department. The Ministry was 10 months delayed in signing the contract with this company.

 

Foreign Affairs Ministry

  • Only 45% of the project budget has been spent. The Ministry’s current and recurring spending was in excess of budget by BD 101,000.
  • Allowing a number of individuals and entities to avoid paying fees.
  • In 2015 the Ministry was criticized for increases in costs of national day parties in diplomatic missions, although apparently the Ministry has put procedures in place for more careful regulation of embassies’ spending for 2016.

 

Interior Ministry

  • Expenditure was BD 27.740m over budget. Project budgets were used to cover the cost of recurrent expenditure.
  • Ministry employees were transferred to the Customs Authority with wages covered by the latter, without coordination with the Finance Ministry. According to the report, this directly led to significant overspends by the Customs Authority (see below).

 

Customs Authority

  • Expenditure was BD 2.8m over budget.
  • Only 47% of the project budget has been spent.
  • Post-dated contracts for services. Submission of contracts for approval after they have been signed off.
  • Renewal of vehicle rental contracts without tendering these deals

 

 

Analysis of the Financial Audit Bureau report – part 1

Justice Ministry

Jaafari Religious Endowments Administration

National Institution for Human Rights

Supreme Judicial Council

Culture and Antiquities Authority

Information Affairs Ministry

Foreign Affairs Ministry

Interior Ministry

 

Analysis of the Financial Audit Bureau report – part 2

Public Authority for Social Security

Ministry of Works, Municipalities and Urban Planning

Oversight of municipality investment properties

Oversight of municipal revenues

Management of agriculture and water resources

Management of marine resources

Marine culture management

Rubbish disposal - Supreme Council for the Environment

Rubbish disposal - Ministry of Works and Municipalities

Electricity and Water Board

Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism

Telecommunications Regulatory Authority

 

Analysis of the Financial Audit Bureau report – part 3

Government projects – Ministry of Finance

Management of National Debt

Mumtalakat

Edama

Health Ministry

Education Ministry

Bahrain Polytechnic

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