Couns. ABDULRAHMAN N. AL-NEMASH
Kuwait Anti-Corruption Authority (KANCOR)
Counselor Abdulrahman Al-Nemash began his career as a public prosecutor during the period from 1982 to1986. He rose in that career path beginning as a judge in the Court of First Instance and a legal consultant in the Minister of Justice’s Office during the period from 1986 to 1988. In addition, Al-Nemash served in several leading positions. He worked as assistant undersecretary in the Public Authority for Minor Affairs. He was later appointed as a counselor in the Court of Appeals, and as a department head in the Court of Appeals and the Court of Cassation. In June 2013, Al-Nemash became president of the Kuwait Anti-Corruption of Authority (KANCOR).
Laying the foundations for a transparent business climate
The public perception is that corruption in Kuwait is very elevated, especially in the public sector. One of the pillars to fight corruption is proper accountability, as well as strict documentation of public processes. Has your office estimated the total effect of corruption on the economy as a percentage of GDP? And from a timescale perspective?
There is no doubt that the long arm of corruption has a grip on many advanced and developing countries alike and has become endemic in parts of them, whether inside governmental institutions or in the private sector. The State of Kuwait has not been immune to this, as evidenced by the state’s drop in the rankings of the world Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) to occupy sixty-seventh place in the world in 2014. Of course, this ranking does not befit Kuwait’s position at international, Arab, and Gulf levels and does not serve the orientation and aspirations of the political leadership, headed by His Highness the Emir of Kuwait—may God protect and preserve him—aimed at turning Kuwait into a world financial center.
His Highness the Emir—may God protect and preserve him—perceived this risk, and with his known wisdom issued the decree by Law No. 24 of the year 2012 establishing the Kuwait Anti-Corruption Authority and the special provisions for the disclosure of financial position thus laying the foundations, basic structures, and rules to limit the risk of corruption, dry up its sources, and pursue those who are corrupt. This is preparation for organizing a suitable administrative and economic climate to achieve the goals of the long-term growth plans and to embark in the direction of the desired goal of transforming Kuwait into a world financial center.
Despite the issuing of the decree establishing the Authority in November 2012, the actual pursuit of its technical tasks—especially those connected with receiving whistle-blowing reports, complaints about corruption incidents, and revealing cases of unjustified increase in the wealth of state officials by activating the system for receiving and auditing the financial disclosure statements of those subject to the provisions of the decree establishing the Authority—was delayed until the executive regulations of March 2015 were issued. We now have great hopes because the Authority making a start in pursuing its areas of jurisdiction as mentioned represents a turning point in disseminating a general feeling among citizens that cases of corruption are in decline and that its effects will be abating in the coming period.
It is true what you have said that promulgating rules on public-sector accountability and making them more stringent is one of the pillars of combating corruption. We are of the opinion that the legislative framework in the State of Kuwait is good and that the judicial authorities are tireless in their efforts to implement the laws and legislation in the cases and incidents of corruption coming before them, not to mention the important role the State Audit Bureau plays. Furthermore, the setting up of the Financial Investigations Unit will greatly assist in following and tracking all suspicious financial transactions and activities.
However, where we do see deficits and a great lack is in the paucity and weakness of procedural monitoring measures inside state institutions, whether previously or subsequently, aimed at the performance of employees and officials, especially those whose tasks involve administering public funds and property.
Hence the Authority is currently working to observe monitoring and performance standards within the state, to study them to determine places where they are deficient, to urge governmental bodies to be aware of them, and to put monitoring mechanisms in place, as well as more stringent accountability to limit cases of misappropriation of public funds. The Authority also aims to limit cases caused by legal and administrative loopholes, to reduce the chances of evading justice and escaping punishment.
Regarding your question about the Authority’s estimates of the total effect of corruption on the economy and gross domestic product: In view of the Authority only recently taking up its tasks by means of which it will be possible to find out these estimates, it is working through the specialist unit of the monitoring and statistics department to study the aspects of all the effects of corruption at national, economic, and social levels, in preparation for them to be fed into reports and then analyzed to produce accurate results for future inclusion in reports to be published by the Authority.
How would you say this perception has affected Kuwait’s international image? And which measures besides the legal framework are being taken to bring full accountability to those participating in acts of corruption?
I have referred previously to the growing manifestations of corruption and the increasing general awareness among citizens of this matter that has clearly affected Kuwait’s world ranking on the Corruption Perceptions Index. As for the measures that are being taken in the legal framework to subject those taking part and involved in incidents of corruption to accountability, I mentioned previously that strengthening regulations, monitoring financial transactions, and limiting them is reducing the cases of evasion from accountability and punishment.
Regarding the private sector, the Authority is currently studying the submission of a legislative proposal to strengthen the control of bribery, one of the most widespread forms of corruption, by criminalizing bribery in the private sector and the bribery of foreign public officials. The Authority would also subject all perpetrators of this crime to accountability and punishment in both the public and private sectors.
In addition, the Authority believes in the necessity and importance of raising awareness and education about the forms of corruption, its criminalization, and destructive dangers for all aspects of political, social, and economic life. With this as a starting point, the Authority has proceeded to hold a number of seminars, conferences, and workshops to raise awareness about these matters whether for the general public or those concerned with pursuing and punishing crimes of corruption. Within the same framework, the Authority is currently preparing a comprehensive national strategic plan to reinforce the values of integrity, transparency, and combating corruption.
This plan includes a group of procedural measures and training programs. There is collaboration in its implementation with all state institutions and authorities as well as civil-society organizations, not to mention a large part allocated to partnership with citizens. This is because the Authority sees in the role of the citizen, by raising their awareness and fostering the initiative to report crimes of corruption, a fact no less important than implementing the laws and imposing monitoring and penalties and procedural measures.
We are seeing a new drive for the youth to become more empowered and more innovative, and to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship among locals in an effort to improve the weight of the private sector in the Kuwaiti economy. How will your office work in terms of communicating the importance of having transparent processes and strengthening the rule of law? How do you envision these campaigns? Will you target the youth?
The whole world started to convert to market economies some time ago and these are primarily based on the presence of a strong private sector enjoying the ability to compete and the spirit of invention and finding solutions for crises. The Kuwaiti government for its part has not spared any efforts to encourage the young to make for the private sector and set up businesses. We, for our part, bless all initiatives by young people aimed at being able to use the tools of private employment as we are of the opinion that these initiatives are in keeping with the orientation of the political leadership to make Kuwait a world financial center that attracts foreign investment.
Regarding the role of the Authority in helping and supporting this direction and those initiatives, it lies is in preparing an administrative and economic climate suitable for this tendency to grow and those initiatives to continue. This will be done by spreading the values of integrity, transparency, and accountability in all administrative and financial transactions in the private and public sectors; propagating the general feeling among citizens that the sole sovereignty in this nation belongs to the rule of law and not to group and personal desires or interests; establishing the principles of equal opportunity; and putting an end to all forms of mediation and nepotism.
Concerning the Authority targeting young people in particular, we assert our belief in the importance and role of young people in building the nation. They are the strength and fuel of hope. There is no doubt that society is relying on the role of young people in making the country’s economic and social system successful. The Authority for its part is paying particular attention to young people by directing many of its awareness-raising programs at them. This is being done through what the Authority is currently doing by concluding collaboration protocols with state ministries concerned with this group such as the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs, the Public Authority for Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Higher Education, and the Ministry of Awqaf. By means of these protocols, the Authority is making efforts to create permanent mechanisms for connecting with young people, interacting with them, and getting to know their opinions and concerns. The Authority is also endeavoring to include scientific and legal subjects for raising awareness of the dangers of corruption, its destructive effects, and how to combat it in the educational curricula and cultural and religious programs directed at young people.
In terms of international collaboration, how does your institution interact with other governments and groups such as the EU and United States, and how would you evaluate the fight against corruption in the context of the fight against terrorism?
Generally, the Authority possesses a wide scope in the affairs of international cooperation concerning combating corruption and reinforcing the values of integrity and transparency. Article 4 of the decree establishing the Authority refers to the fact that the aims of the Authority include implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and also the pursuit of perpetrators of corruption crimes, as well as seizing and recovering the proceeds of crime, not to mention the Authority’s aim of reinforcing the principle of cooperation and participation with other countries and international and regional organizations in the spheres of combating terrorism.
There is no doubt that the Authority’s proficiency in achieving the goals referred to requires it to have an outstandingly good network of relationships at international and regional levels whether with the Authority’s counterparts or with international organizations and institutions under the auspices of the United Nations and outside it. For example, the Authority has succeeded in joining Kuwait to the International Anti-Corruption Academy. Regarding cooperation with the governments of some states, at present the Authority is adopting measures to conclude legal and cooperation protocols with counterpart organizations in some Arab states such the Administrative Control Authority in the Arab Republic of Egypt.
Regarding cooperation with the governments of some states in the European Union, the Authority has cooperated with the government of the Swiss Confederation, and the government of the United Kingdom as represented by the British Public Prosecutions Office and the Serious Fraud Office. The Authority has also cooperated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States of America with regard to the exchange of some information about corruption cases at a national level. This cooperation has led to extremely positive results and has played a part in enabling the investigatory and policing authorities to monitor facts, punish perpetrators and those taking part, and to publicize these facts.
Regarding the link between the efforts to combat corruption and terrorism, we can assert authoritatively that both corruption and terrorism are united in transcending national borders and in relying on monies resulting from crime for financing. Both corruption and terrorism also lead to the destruction of people’s capabilities and devastate social peace and security. Finally, with regard to combating them, both terrorism and corruption cannot be counteracted or eradicated by individual efforts alone but need combined international, governmental, and nongovernmental efforts to combat them and to dry up their sources, as well as work within a unified global strategy and goals.
Several people talk about the need to shape and form a new “Kuwaiti global citizen.” What could you comment on this subject and what role do you see yourself playing in this process?
There is no doubt that qualifying the new generation and broadening their perception and horizons to help them grasp the rapid growth in all areas of political, social, and economic life is considered to be one of the aims that all states, including the State of Kuwait, are striving toward.
We are of the opinion that the government is making good efforts to equip the new generations in a manner that will qualify them to keep pace with current developments at all levels. In keeping pace with the government’s efforts, the Authority has been keen to convene many seminars, workshops, and training courses for new officials of the Authority and the concerned employees of government bodies, and for all those interested in the subjects of combating corruption. This is to raise their awareness and give them insight into all the mechanisms and measures for dealing with corruption incidents. The Authority will want to include the national strategy for combating corruption in long-term plans for raising public awareness among those belonging to state institutions and the organizations of civil society and all citizens, not to mention to disseminate procedural and legal education in matters of combating corruption. It will also raise awareness of the latest methods and measures for combating corruption appearing in the United Nations Convention against Corruption and in all the deliverables of international organizations, governmental and nongovernmental in this matter, in addition to briefing them on the experiences of other states in the sphere of combating corruption and reinforcing the values of integrity and transparency.