MPs file to grill oil min­is­ter; panel OKs early re­tire­ment bill

Kuwait Times - - Front Page - By B Iz­zak

KUWAIT: Op­po­si­tion MPs Omar Al-Tabtabaei and Ab­dul­wa­hab Al-Bab­tain yes­ter­day filed to grill Oil Min­is­ter Bakheet Al-Rasheedi over al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion, mis­man­age­ment, squan­der­ing pub­lic funds and oth­ers. Bab­tain de­scribed it as the “grilling of bil­lions” in ref­er­ence to the al­leged sums that have ei­ther been stolen or squan­dered by the oil sec­tor, while Tabtabaei said a “mafia” is run­ning the oil sec­tor.

The lengthy grilling has been placed on the agenda of the May 1 Assem­bly ses­sion for a po­ten­tial de­bate, Assem­bly Speaker Mar­zouq Al-Ghanem told re­porters. He said the grilling was not placed on to­day’s agenda be­cause it was sub­mit­ted too late and to be de­bated to­day and re­quires the Assem­bly to agree to place it on the agenda and al­low its de­bate.

The two law­mak­ers ad­vised the min­is­ter to face the grilling and not to re­sign ahead of the de­bate, with Tabtabaei in­sist­ing that it “con­tains strong points” with au­then­tic doc­u­men­ta­tion. The grilling is based on 10 main is­sues, all al­leg­ing cor­rup­tion, mis­man­age­ment, squan­der­ing of pub­lic funds and losses from bad in­vest­ment de­ci­sions. The grilling blames the min­is­ter and the oil sec­tor of squan­der­ing or los­ing “hun­dreds of mil­lions of di­nars”, while Bab­tain said the amounts “are well over one bil­lion di­nars”.

The law­mak­ers vowed to pro­duce doc­u­ments to prove their ac­cu­sa­tions from orig­i­nal sources and urged MPs to first hear the de­bate be­fore judg­ing the grilling. In the first is­sue, the grilling al­leges a de­lay in the Clean Fuel Project un­til the end of 2018, caus­ing the state heavy losses, besides fail­ing to im­pose de­lay fines on con­trac­tors. It ac­cused the min­is­ter of en­ter­ing into bad in­vest­ments that cost pub­lic funds mas­sive losses, cit­ing the ex­am­ple of a for­eign in­vest­ment that has re­sulted in $630 mil­lion in losses.

It also ac­cused the min­istry of fail­ing to col­lect pub­lic funds from lawyers in­volved in the Dow Chem­i­cal is­sue, and also caus­ing losses to pub­lic funds by not op­er­at­ing the re­fin­ery in Viet­nam. The grilling charged that the min­is­ter pro­vided mis­lead­ing an­swers to ques­tions sub­mit­ted by MPs and that he tried to pro­tect se­nior oil ex­ec­u­tives who are sus­pected of graft. It ac­cuses the min­is­ter of not re­spond­ing to “cor­rup­tion files” of some se­nior ex­ec­u­tives and not hold­ing to ac­count those who trig­gered the oil strike two years ago, which led to a stop­page in oil sup­plies.

Tabtabaei vowed that the grilling will ex­plain how the oil sec­tor is be­ing run by a mafia, adding that he will not ac­cept any­thing less than hold­ing oil ex­ec­u­tives to ac­count, oth­er­wise they plan to grill the chair­man of the Supreme Petroleum Coun­cil (SPC) - the prime min­is­ter. Bab­tain mean­while warned that if any­thing is deleted from the grilling, he will grill the prime min­is­ter.

In an­other de­vel­op­ment, the fi­nan­cial and eco­nomic af­fairs com­mit­tee yes­ter­day ap­proved a draft law for early re­tire­ment de­spite a lack of agree­ment with the gov­ern­ment. MP Saleh Ashour said the law al­lows male gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees to re­tire af­ter serv­ing for 30 years and women af­ter 25 years re­gard­less of age. Men who want to re­tire af­ter 25 years of ser­vice will lose five per­cent of their pen­sion, he said. The draft law is ex­pected to be de­bated ei­ther to­day or to­mor­row.

— Photo by Fouad Al-Shaikh

KUWAIT: Op­po­si­tion MPs Omar Al-Tabtabaei (left) and Ab­dul­wa­hab Al-Bab­tain ar­rive to file to grill Oil Min­is­ter Bakheet Al-Rasheedi yes­ter­day at the Na­tional Assem­bly.

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