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“Nazaha” – Fighting Corruption in Saudi Arabia

Guiding Principle

The fact that Saudi Arabia is being ranked number 63 out of 177 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index of the Transparency International, and the public discontent at the growth of corruption at the government agencies, motivated the Saudi Government to establish the National Anti-Corruption Commission “Nazaha” in 2011. Nazaha, which reports directly to the King, came to lead the efforts of the current supervisory bodies at the government authorities. The Royal Order for establishing Nazaha granted it the necessary powers to eliminate all aspects of administrative and financial corruption at all sectors of the Saudi government.

A. Corruption in Saudi Arabia

There is a growing sentiment amongst Saudi citizens that corruption is widespread at various sectors of the government authorities. In this regard, the Riyadh Economic Forum[1] has in December 2013 conducted a study titled “Administrative and Financial Corruption….Reality, Effects and Means to Reduce it”[2]. In the study, 67.8% of the random sample[3] questioned by the researchers managing the study showed that they are convinced that corruption is widespread in the Kingdom.

The failure and the delay of implementing several major projects, and the deterioration of projects that have not been implemented long ago enhanced this sentiment.

In a related context, also the Transparency International Organisation (TI)[4] at its Corruption Perceptions Index[5] (CPI) ranked Saudi Arabia at 63 out of 177 countries[6].

Accordingly, the Saudi Government has felt the need to fight this phenomenon in a way that is satisfactory to the Saudi population and business community.

B. Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha)

On March 2011, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has issued his Royal Order No. A/65 for the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Commission “Nazaha” with a direct link to the King and its President to be appointed with a ministerial rank. Nazaha as an Arabic word means “Integrity”.

The Commission has received all the necessary powers by the Royal Order to watch all the governmental sectors of the Kingdom with no exceptions at all and eliminate all the financial and administrative corruption thereof.

The targets of the Commission is to protect the integrity, enhance the transparency principal and eliminate the financial and administrative corruption. In order to achieve these targets, the Commission shall fulfill several functions including:

  1. Follow-up the executions of the orders and instruction relevant to the public affairs and the interests of citizens to ensure its compliance.
  2. Investigate the existence of any financial or administrative corruption at all the governmental contracts as well those relevant to the public affairs and the interest of the citizens. Accordingly, the Commission shall take all the necessary statutory measures at any violation or corruption incident it discovers.
  3. Raising the violations and irregularities related to financial and administrative corruptions at discovering them to the regulatory or investigative bodies. The Commission is entitled to receive information about the developments of the investigations. Further, the Commission might raise the matter to the King directly if the conditions so warrant.
  4. Follow-up recovering the amounts resulting from corruption crimes with the concerned authorities.

C. Current Status after Three Years from Establishing Nazaha

In its latest report for the financial year 2012-2013, Nazaha has announced that it has discovered 789corruption cases (including cases of stalled projects, delay and poor implementations) after reviewing the contracts of more than 1018 projects.

The Commission received criticism for its failure to put any senior official to trial. The critics consider that Nazaha did not used the broad powers it possess to eliminate the core of corruption at the governmental authorities rather than inspecting less than 11.4% of the governmental authorities executed since the Commission was established.

Until now, the Commission has not achieved any significant results in fighting corruption in the Kingdom during the last three years since its establishment as per its critics. Accordingly, the public opinion still feels that the corruption is widespread in the country and therefore it is a common subject to criticize the work of the Commission in the local media.

Nazaha responded that several government authorities failed to cooperate with them and did not implemented the resolutions of the Saudi Council of Ministers in particular concerning the establishment of internal audit departments.

Nevertheless, the role of Nazaha is expected to be more effective in the future. The Commission is backed up by the highest levels at the Saudi government. Many workshops were conducted recently by the Commission together with the other government authorities to improve its performance in fighting corruption in the Kingdom.

October, 2014 Hany Kenawi
Meyer-Reumann & Partners, Saudi Arabia Office

[1]        Riyadh Economic Forum is an NGO, established by Riyadh Chamber of Commerce & Industry, concerned by the economic issues to tackle its problems and achieve sustainable economic achievement. For more information, kindly revert to the website of the Forum at: http://www.riyadhef.com/

[2]        The study can be found in Arabic at the following webpage: http://www.riyadhef.com/images/pdfs/3.pdf

[3]        Composed of employees of the anti-corruption authorities, the private sector entities concerned with executing the projects of the government authorities, and of government authorities; in addition to judges, notary public, lawyers and auditors.

[4]     Transparency International (TI) is a non-governmental organization that monitors and publicizes corporate and political corruption in international development. Originally founded in Germany in May 1993 as a not-for-profit organization, TI is now an international non-governmental organization. It publishes an annual Global Corruption Barometer and Corruption Perceptions Index, a comparative listing of corruption worldwide. The headquarters is located in Berlin, Germany. For more information, kindly revert to TI’s website: http://www.transparency.org/

[5]     Investopedia defines The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) as a ranking of countries according to the extent to which corruption is believed to exist. The CPI was created in 1995 by TI. It ranks almost 200 countries on a scale of zero to 10, with zero indicating high levels of corruption and 10 indicating low levels. Developed countries typically rank higher than developing nations due to stronger regulations.

[6]        The Rank of Saudi Arabia at the Transparency International’s CPI can be found at the following webpage : http://www.transparency.org/country#SAU

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