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Bahrain Determined to Curb Irregularities in Government Spending

The government of Bahrain has decided to come down more forcefully against irregularities and mismanagement in its diverse departments.

At its Cabinet meeting this week Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa minced no words while stressing the need to promote good governance. His initiative also expressed the government resolve to crack down on overspending and stay strictly within the allocated budget for any project.

To ensure this resolution is adhered to, he also put the country’s deputy premiers in charge of overseeing its implementation.

The spur for this action was the report recently released by Bahrain’s National Audit Court which said that massive amounts of public money had been squandered as a result of financial and administrative irregularities and mismanagement. The 2009 report also detailed how several ministries, government agencies and authorities wasted the funds by flouting laws and regulations.

Immediately after the release of the audit report, the Prime Minister ordered the ministerial economic and financial committee to look into the violations and draft a report preparatory to taking legal and constitutional action to preserve public funds.

“The government will not tolerate any abuse of the public money and will not allow any ministry to break laws and regulations,” the government news agency quoted him as saying.

The host of irregularities included the former culture and information ministry being accused of spending around $8.78 million on a one-day music festival. The ministry also paid a Lebanese singer 164,000 euros and simultaneous hotel accommodation in different continents.

Lucrative contracts for non-Bahraini consultants with monthly salaries of up to $23,780 were also cited among the ministry’s 2009 irregularities. Five ministries and three authorities failed to have the required internal audit, according to the National Audit Court report.

Also, Tamkeen, the national employment scheme, supported sectors not covered under its strategic plans and was managing 40 projects with a total portfolio of $237.8 million with a staff of only 14 people, the audit report said.

Such glaring irregularities have rightfully made the government sit up, especially since their echo is also bound to reverberate in Parliament.

‘The government performance will undergo major changes, regarding auditing and control procedures, to track down and combat squandering of public money,” the Premier said in a statement after the Cabinet meeting.

He also stressed the government’s resolve to motivate departments and institutions to enhance their performance, optimise resources available to them, ensure the accuracy of their financial and accounting data and put in place auditing tools at ministries and government departments so as to check ‘unprogrammed irregularities’.

‘The initiative aims to boost the role of the government project management directorate, an affiliate of the Finance Ministry, in controlling recurrent spending, and project budgeting,” he said, adding: ‘The government performance will undergo major changes, regarding auditing and control procedures, to track down and combat public money squandering.”

The initiative will also crackdown on overspending and promote strict commitment to allocated project budgets. ‘The Government is resolved to overhaul self-auditing procedures to preserve national achievements,” he said.

Two ministers will draw up a workplan and analyse the dysfunctional aspects of the government’s recurrent spending whereas the Bahrain Excellence Centre will measure the benchmarks of government performance and suggest improvements.

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