Muscat: To combat corruption, the government of Oman has launched strategic programmes within the 10th five-year plan.
In an unprecedented step, the government has, for the first time, allocated efforts to enhance integrity, combat corruption, and enable the media as the fourth authority in the 10th five-year development plan.
The government also confirmed its determination to combat administrative and financial corruption in all its forms, with control, transparency, accountability and anti-corruption efforts among the priorities of the plan through five strategic programmes.
Among these is the “Anti-Corruption Programme and Reducing Abuse of Public Funds”, which aims to develop measures to strengthen the fight against administrative and financial corruption, and to address and reduce cases of abuse of public money and power.
This comes at a time when public opinion sees the importance of implementing this on the ground to ensure the success of Oman’s 2040 Vision, which in turn will lead to sustainable development, building a strong economy, and effective government integrity, according to the strategic programmes document of the 10th five-year development plan published by the Ministry of Economy.
To ensure its implementation, four civil and security-focused government agencies will complete the implementation of the roles entrusted to them through the coordination and integration mechanisms within this strategy.
These are the State Financial and Administrative Control Authority, the Public Prosecution, the Royal Oman Police, and the Internal Security Service.
This will help build an integrated control system that protects national capabilities, strengthen national competencies of the authorities concerned, improve coordination and integration between the above organisations, help protect public money, and prevent infringement.
It will also help put into practice the results of Oman’s review of the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which the Sultanate joined in 2013.
Other efforts to halt corruption include one titled “Activating Judicial Seizure Procedures for Members of the State’s Financial and Administrative Control Authority”, which aims to enhance coordination with the Royal Oman Police and the Public Prosecution.
It will also enable the State’s Financial and Administrative Control Authority to take legal measures to implement judicial seizure, and ensure that the concerned procedures are followed in accordance with the law.
Furthermore, the recommendations of the authority contained in its supervisory reports will be implemented forthwith. No procrastination is to take place in their implementation. The move also involves activating judicial control procedures for members of the authority, as well as enables other entities to inform the above body, should they discover any prejudice regarding the management of public funds.
As part of the 10th five-year plan, the government will tighten and hold accountable those who are proven to have committed acts violating public funds or abuse of power, in addition to developing a national strategy for integrity that nurtures a sense of responsibility and control among employees of the state’s administrative apparatus and other government units.
Legislation will also be developed for an independent, unified and comprehensive regulatory system that guarantees control over all public funds of the state, including natural resources, as the programme aims to prepare unified legislation to replace all current regulatory systems. This will come into effect during the period from 2021 to 2022.
Through this programme, laws will be issued to approve the budgets of the regulatory authorities, which are set as a single amount in the state’s general budget to ensure their independence and enable the administrative independence of the regulatory authorities. All public funds are also subject to the control of the state’s financial and administrative control body.
The units of the state’s administrative apparatus will carry out their control roles in accordance with the provisions of the laws regulating their work, and the creation of a comprehensive control system that includes various indicators at the level of government sectors and institutions. The laws are also designed to enable accountability and define roles of various organisations.
Among the tools for tightening control is the construction of a governance system programme for national resources and projects, which aims to lay the rules of a system for good governance of public resources allocated to national projects, including rules of disclosure, transparency, accountability, and responsibility to raise the quality and efficiency of such projects.
Through the programme, the administrative accountability procedures currently applied in cases of violations will be reviewed, an independent body for administrative accountability will be identified, and efforts to improve the investigative capacity of nationals will be built.
A law on illicit enrichment was also enacted, and the State’s Financial and Administrative Control Authority was given the power to disclose to the public a summary of the results of its work.
Another programme, titled “Media and Societal Oversight to Protect Public Money,” aims to educate people about their role as an additional authority, and as a very important monitoring tool that sheds light on and monitors financial infringements and administrative violations that may occur, which necessitate taking the necessary action by the concerned authorities. It also aims to educate the community about the importance of its oversight role in preserving public money, achieving the concept of self-control, and instilling the values of integrity among young people towards public money in its various forms, including public utilities and services.
Through the programme, the media will be empowered to play their role in conducting fact-finding operations, and accessing and disseminating information, in accordance with regulations and legislation. It will also build competencies specialised in the areas of media investigations and fact-finding, strengthen the community’s culture in protecting and controlling public money, and educate young people on the values of integrity and protection.
Through curricula or moral guidance in school activities, students will be educated on the value of community partnership in preserving public money. The plan also calls for consolidating self-censorship in society through: enhancing confidence in state institutions, disseminating the measures taken in the event of public money being infringed, and setting a participatory framework for civil society institutions to participate in the field of oversight, especially over natural resources.
In his historic speech in February 2020, His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik – may God protect him and keep him in His care - explained the features of the new phase of the blessed Renaissance. His Majesty affirmed his determination to restructure the state’s administrative apparatus, modernise the system of legislation and laws, activate accountability, and promote integrity and performance governance.
The Minister of Economy, Dr Saeed Al Saqri, confirmed the importance of the concerted efforts of the authorities responsible for implementing strategic programmes and emphasised the continued need to develop advanced mechanisms for their implementation. This also included the developing of strong funding sources, and dealing with any challenges that may hinder implementation to produce tangible results on the ground. This came in a speech published in the strategic programmes document of the plan, which was released to Al Shabiba, the sister Arabic newspaper of the Times of Oman.