A front page headline in a local Arabic paper drew the attention of readers to 2,622 cases of financial and administrative corruption, most of them in the ministries of municipal affairs, health and education.
According to the report, corruption cases include: Misuse of administrative powers and public funds, nepotism, embezzlement, forgery and bribery.
Ever since its formation Nazaha, Saudi Arabia’s National Anti-Corruption Commission, has been fighting an uphill battle to contain and forcefully eradicate corruption from public life.
Even the Shoura Council, the Kingdom’s consultative council, has urged Nazaha to step up its fight against corruption by naming and shaming wrongdoers in a bid to stop the spread of graft in the country.
Across the Gulf, the authorities are increasingly stepping up efforts to stamp out corruption, which was one of the main triggers of the Arab Spring protests in 2011. This disease did not arise suddenly in one day. People have endured its negative repercussions on society for many years.
There are many factors that contribute to the spread of corruption at all levels. One of them is the fact that people accept it as a way of life.
Moreover, the inability of government departments to stop violators and the acceptance by the public of giving “tea money” to small officials have allowed senior officials to tamper with rules and regulations. Another important factor is the lack of civic bodies and watchdogs to monitor official dialogue.
Nazaha cannot wipe out corruption with a magic wand. In order to find a constructive and effective solution to this deadly scourge, a grassroots-level education program should be implemented.
Educational institutions should develop curricula and awareness campaigns. The media on its part should focus on illegal activities and should carry out investigative reporting to expose to the general public and the authorities the behavior of both officials and companies that are wasting our country’s resources.
A national fight against corruption is a reflection of our patriotism. We cannot sit and discuss corruption over a cup of coffee or a shish outing. We should not be indifferent to wastage, greed and embezzlement at any level.
It is important that the media play a role in highlighting the negative aspects of these phenomena by demanding accountability and transparency which, unfortunately, in most cases do not exist.
Government departments, the courts and other institutions should be answerable to the public as they are in advanced countries. And no one should be considered above the law.
Fear of reprisal in reporting corruption cases should be removed and rules to protect and reward such people should be put in place.
An independent national corruption and transparency index should be created and compared to international standards. And by the way, Denmark at No.1 in the index is the least corrupt country in the world.
The public and the media should join hands in beating Denmark for that coveted position. They should be the first line of defense against corruption.
Meanwhile, the level of social consciousness should be raised. The public must realize that they are stakeholders in the country and that they have a responsibility to contribute for the good of all. Corruption eats away at the moral and social fabric of society. We cannot allow it to destroy our foundation and jeopardize the future of our next generation. Much time has been wasted and corruption has delayed our progress long enough. The time to act is now.