Thursday, September 27, 2007

Corruption Index Blow for Bahrain

Gulf Daily News: Vol XXX, NO. 191, Thursday 27th September 2007

Corruption index blow for Bahrain


BAHRAIN was among 11 countries cited by Transparency International yesterday as having a "significant worsening in levels of perceived corruption" this year, despite retaining its rank as the third least corrupt country in the Arab world. Its global ranking also dropped in the 2007 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) from 36, among 163 countries last year, to 46, among 180 countries this year.
The index comes at a time when Bahrain is stepping up its war on corruption, with prosecution against officials from three national companies. It scores countries on a scale from zero to 10, with zero indicating high levels of perceived corruption and 10 indicating low levels.
Bahrain's score of 5.0 was down compared to last year's 5.7 and 2005's score of 5.6, but maintained its position behind Qatar (6.0) and the UAE (5.7).
TI's corruption perceptions index focuses on the public sector and defines corruption as "the abuse of public office for private gain".
Among the index's sources are surveys by the World Bank, the Economist Intelligence Unit, the African Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
The Berlin-based organisation said that countries with a significant worsening corruption levels include Austria, Bahrain, Belize, Jordan, Laos, Macao, Malta, Mauritius, Oman, Papua New Guinea and Thailand.
The 11 countries were also ranked among countries whose scores deteriorated most between last year and this year.
"In these cases, actual changes in perceptions occurred during the last two years," said TI in its report.
About the Middle East, the report states that this year's results "make clear that corruption and lack of transparency still constitute a very important challenge for development of the region".
"For many countries in the Middle East, increased debate about corruption reflects slow but steady progress on legal reforms," it said.
It highlighted countries that ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), namely Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, the UAE and Yemen.
Bahrain signed the UNCAC on February 8, 2005, but has not yet ratified it.
Arab countries, which equaled or scored lower than Bahrain in the rankings, that take into consideration other variables, were Oman in 53rd place with a score of 4.7; Jordan, 53rd, 4.7; Kuwait, 60th, 4.3; Saudi Arabia, 79th, 3.4; Lebanon, 99th, 3.0; Yemen, Libya and Iran, 131st with each with a score of 2.5; Syria, 138th, 2.4; and Iraq, 178th with a score of 1.5.
Countries with a significant improvement included Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, Dominica, Italy, Macedonia, Romania and Suriname.
Among the major powers, Britain was ranked 12th, Germany 16th, Japan 17th, France 19th, the US 20th, while China, Brazil and India were tied at 72nd place, and Russia was 143rd.
Worst ranked for corruption were Myanmar and Somalia with a score of just 1.4, followed by Iraq on 1.5 and Haiti, which was bottom of last year's list with 1.6 points.
Officials from the Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard (Asry), Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) and Gulf Air are facing fraud and embezzlement charges as part of the country's efforts to step up its war on corruption.
A senior Asry official has been arrested and remanded in custody for a week for allegedly cheating the company out of BD40,000.
He is one of two Asry officials suspended on last Wednesday, following an extraordinary board meeting over investigation by an external auditor into alleged financial irregularities.
Six Gulf Air employees have also been charged with forgery and embezzlement.
They were among eight airline members of staff reported to the Public Prosecution by the airline on last Thursday for allegedly cheating customers.
The men, Bahrainis and expatriates, are said to have cheated Haj pilgrims out of BD3,785 last December.
Meanwhile, a senior Alba official and a former official are in custody, in a case allegedly involving more than $2.5 million (BD945,000) in illegal commission and discounts.

Al-Faseela: The 2007 Transparency Index report could be found on