Muscat: A campaign by the State Audit Institution (SAI) to ensure that there is greater transparency and integrity in government institutions have led to some startling discoveries in the past year.
In a Community Brief released on Monday highlighting results of its 2022 Annual Report it was found that millions of Omani Rials to the state exchequer were lost, many corrupt officials were caught and embezzlement of funds were detected in different sectors.
Among the highlights was a government employee convicted for embezzling over OMR65,000.
The guilty employee who was working in one of the ministries abused his position by using “fuel filling cards and embezzled OMR66,642. In another case, two women employees were suspected for embezzling a total of OMR12,445. The third edition of the Community Brief includes general statistics on figures and types of audit tasks of the 2022 annual audit plan. SAI carried out 181 audit tasks, from which 147 reports were issued that contained 1,591 observations.
OMR726,000 collected from companies
SAI managed to get convictions issued against the guilty, which included punishments of imprisonment for periods ranging from 1 month to 10 years and fines between OMR100 and OMR78,000. In addition to verdicts of ancillary and complementary punishments. The SAI also collected OMR726,000 from companies for withholding income tax.
As for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources, SAI found that absence of an early warning system that helps predict circumstances in which food shortage may occur in the future. A Ministerial Decision No. (36/2023) was issued on the formation of a committee to establish an information system for early warning of food security.
During the audit, absence of a consolidated system for food products (Halal) to facilitate export and import between countries and entities adhered to the system was found.
Doctors violated regulations
SAI expressed concerns on waiting time for patient appointments in the Ministry of Health. A total of 28 doctors met patients and performed some surgeries in private health establishments during the official working hours in government hospitals, and during days on which they are not authorised to practice work in private health establishments, in violation of the controls stipulated in the regulations in this regard.
SAI said that after the violations were detected the Ministry took a number of regulatory actions in accordance with the specificity of the health sector, including issuing circulars to all private health establishments to comply with the systems; not permitting doctors to practice the profession in private health establishments during their official working hours; forming a working team to study and evaluate some specialisations in private health establishments to ensure their compliance with the Ministry’s specifications and requirements.
A total of 17,521 referrals were issued by health establishments under the Ministry of Health to outpatient clinics at Khoula Hospital and 12,018 surgeries were not scheduled during the period from 2017 to 2021.
Waiting periods have been scheduled and names of surgical patients have been entered into a system whereby appointments are prioritised based on each case. Long waiting periods from the date of appointment arrangement to the actual date for meeting doctors in outpatient clinics and performing surgeries in Royal, Khoula and Al-Nahdha hospitals were found.
SAI said that there has been recurrence of violations against some private health establishments as a result of allowing visiting doctors to practice the medical profession and allied medical professions without obtaining licences or with expired licences, as 19 violations were detected against one private health establishment.
Also there were repeated violations committed by some doctors working in government health establishments due to practicing medical profession in private health establishments without obtaining a licence as regulated by the provisions of the Law for the Practice of the Medical Profession and regulations and decisions issued thereof, or practicing with an expired license. Four violations and two warnings against one doctor were detected in one year.