Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Khudairi
Published — Saturday 24 November 2012
Last update 24 November 2012 4:11 am
This is an account of a Saudi distinguished in the administrative, technical and scientific fields. His painful fate had led him to work in a government institution after years of working inside and outside the Kingdom in various sectors during which he gained good experience in carrying out work in an efficient manner and overcoming obstacles and problems.
In a gathering with a number of competent Saudi figures who work in the public sector, he asked a question, not an innocent one and with little spite, but full of anguish and pain, and in search for the truth: “What is the corruption that we must fight?”
On the face of it, the question seemed normal, with one answer only. But after he took a deep breath and a sip from his teacup, he said, “I started working in the government institution thinking that everything is explicit, open and organized. That all administrative, financial and technical procedures are defined, well-known and nonnegotiable.”
His first surprise was, as he said, that he couldn’t discipline the employees for numerous reasons, most important of all, was the lack of a system to assess performance, appreciate efficient employees and get rid of redundancies. He said that the employees who were very much aware of the regulations related to their personal rights were those who stall, with no work to do and only get benefited.
There is no system to get rid of those employees, and with the help of the weak system, they forcibly take whatever they want. The official in charge cannot fight them simply because they can press charges against him, and use all legal and illegal means to harm him with no fear of God, or any human being. His view is that it is a gap which should be addressed to fight corruption.
On the other hand, government institutions cannot recruit distinguished and competent people who can address administrative dysfunction, because of the poor salaries and privileges available for them in comparison with the private and academic sector. Any official who wants to recruit those mentioned has to alter the administrative, financial and supervisory system in order to allure them to work in any government institution. This is another area which should be addressed as well.
The third issue in abusing the system is the financial regulations, tenders and their contracting with the procedures accompanying them. This leads to administrative and financial corruption, thus the need to address it.
In a separate part of the discussion, the man asked: “How can we assess the performance of a government official and supervise him? Shall we leave the matter for those talkative? Or those with individual interests, who think that the official is excellent if he personally serves them, otherwise he is a bad person? Or should we leave the assessment process for those with loud voices and sharp tongues, who are more evil than good? Or to the media that focuses only on the negatives with full of attacks and criticisms? All of the mentioned above leads to the same road of corruption: A road that the official chooses in order to gain the friendship of inefficient staff and avoid their evils which is an issue that needs reform if we want to fight corruption.
The man quoted those who were relieved from their positions, with or without their choice. Some of them were from the most distinguished fields in the Kingdom, even though, they were not spared criticisms and charges after all they did to their country.
He also talked about his experience in the government institution, and the difficulties that confront one who wants to work and succeed in his performance, and be away from anything that may lead to corruption, at the administrative, financial, or behavioral level. The discussion involved the best ways to develop the different institutions of the state to promote competence and systems, such as the following:
1 Amend payrolls so as to be able to recruit competent staff on competitive basis at par with the private and academic sector.
2 Recruitment and dismissal system should be clearly stated, in particular, firing those who are not committed to work and achievement.
3 To listen to officials in the financial departments and projects, and study their proposals involving the development of financial systems and auctions, to reach a way that prevents violations.
4 To develop a system that protects the rights of the civil servant, the competent one in particular, and his reputation, so as not to be subject to false criticisms and charges that could lead him to refrain from working at any government institutions.
Last, and not least, the civil servant must be treated like every other government employee, as is the case in the Anti-Corruption Commission, because this will reduce corruption to the minimum.