Action needed after the Financial Audit Bureau report

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In the past few years the Financial Audit Bureau has done a commendable job in highlighting shortcomings of Government institutions through its comprehensive annual reports, presented to the leadership and announced to the public.

While this is a step in the right direction for Bahrain’s reform efforts, there is a need for action and for the public to have confidence that there are real consequences for management shortcomings and corruption. 

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Analysis of the Financial Audit Bureau report – part 3

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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.

In its overview of government financial procedures, the FAB report extensively discussed the management of the national debt and concerns of a sharp rise between 2011 and the end of 2015, from BD 3.5bn to 7.2bn, representing approximately 60% of GDP.

The report also looked at project budgets allotted to departments by the Finance Ministry. In many cases ministries had only spent around half of their project budgets, despite certain ministries being overspent in terms of their total budgets. The report evaluated a range of these projects and raised criticisms about the effectiveness of expenditure.

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On 21 November, Amnesty International issued a 55-page report investigating two Bahraini institutions for addressing human rights abuses – the Ombudsman’s Office and the Special Investigations Unit. The report was entitled: Window dressing or pioneers of change?

Regarding the Ombudsman’s effectiveness Amnesty said: “The Ombudsman’s office appears generally to have fulfilled its mandate to investigate alleged human rights violations, make recommendations and refer relevant cases to the SIU or other authorities while also taking steps to increase its accessibility, improve its procedures and enhance transparency. It also claims to have resolved various issues related to the treatment of prisoners and detainees.”

The Amnesty report is useful in emphasizing the need to enhance the Ombudsman’s perceived independence; and consolidating the organization’s ability to rapidly investigate all allegations of abuse.

Amnesty is critical of Ombudsman Nawaf al-Moawdah’s failure to speak out publically on a range of human rights issues which are arguably outside his jurisdiction. In fact, the Ombudsman is right to avoid politicizing his position and to continue acting as a pragmatic investigator able to work effectively within the Bahraini system.

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Analysis of the Financial Audit Bureau report – part 2

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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.

Departments managed by the Ministry of Works, Municipalities and Urban Planning came in for criticism on a number of fronts: The management of rubbish was a significant issue; the lack of regulation of sand extracted from the sea bed raised a number of concerns; the oversight of municipal contracts and properties revealed a number of shortcomings; and also the management of agricultural, water and marine resources was also discussed at length.

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism came in for criticism regarding its failure to enforce and test commercial standards and to effectively regulate trademarks and fake products. In 2015’s FAB report there was specific criticism of failure to effectively monitor meat imports so as to ensure compliance with international standards; failure to take action against illegally operating slaughter houses and failure to conduct adequate inspections of meat establishments.

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