Why the fight against corruption matters to every Saudi
A wave of reforms aimed at combating corruption has focused attention on what corruption actually is, along with the legal mechanisms and strategies employed to eliminate it.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission, Nazaha, was established in 2011 by order of the late King Abdullah. His directive was explicit — that the powers of the commission cover all sectors and government agencies without exception, regardless of anyone’s name or position.
Nazaha defines corruption as any breach of the rules imposed by a statutory regulator, or the misuse of authority or the civil service for the purpose of personal gain or exploitation. Corruption takes many forms; it need not involve only financial gain, but also covers political, functional and moral benefits. Examples would be unlawful enrichment, misuse and waste of public money, commercial fraud, money laundering and using authority or power to make money.
Saudi Arabia can also benefit from international experience and best practice in the fight against corruption — which I prefer to think of as a battle to protect political and social stability and security
Dimah Talal Alsharif
Many members of the community know about the phenomenon of corruption and the campaign against it, without being fully aware of Nazaha’s objectives, and its legal strategy to achieve them. Greater awareness of the importance of this fundamental role would contribute to society’s involvement in the battle against corruption, and to people’s knowledge of the desired aims and the methods to be used.
The commission’s job is to investigate any breaches of rules and regulations that affect the public interest; to refer these offenses to the investigating authorities and follow up with the investigation process; and to take any necessary precautionary measures. The commission has the right to report directly to the king for any further action a case may require, which reflects the seriousness with which corruption is viewed at the highest level. It also aims to monitor the recovery of funds obtained by corrupt means.
Nazaha’s work mechanisms reflect the importance of each objective. It proposes regulations and policies required by the anti-corruption process, and provides judicial bodies with the necessary financial and human resources, expertise, training and modern scientific means to enable them to perform their tasks efficiently. It speeds up the process of resolving corruption cases and compensating those affected by them. It establishes mechanisms to protect public money, it clarifies the procedures used in particular in government procurement contracts, public institutions and joint stock companies, and it encourages the involvement of the public and the media in expressing opinions about these procedures. It also urges professionals such as lawyers, doctors and accountants to express an opinion about the applicable regulations, in addition to ensuring the free exchange of information about corruption between society and the media.
Public awareness plays a major role in the battle against corruption, so the commission expresses its policies and objectives in simple and clear language. Providing direct channels of communication with society also helps the commission to receive reports of corruption and to clarify the measures to be taken. Saudi Arabia can also benefit from international experience and best practice in the fight against corruption — which I prefer to think of as a battle to protect political and social stability and security.
• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif