Academics call for steps to ‘contain corruption in UAE’

Eman Al Baik
Filed on March 29, 2005

DUBAI — In the backdrop of an international study ranking the UAE 29th in corruption worldwide, academics here have called for transparency of the highest order to reduce corruption.

Although the International Transparency Organisation’s (ITO) 2004 study found that the UAE has the lowest corruption level among all Arab countries and its rank is not too bad when compared to the 17th of the United States, the situation prompted Dubai TV’s Al Mash to air a programme on Saturday seeking further steps to improve the situation.

Many Arab countries such as Yemen, Sudan, Palestinian Authority, and Libya were among the worst 20 countries in the world with corruption indices over the hundred mark.

As the construction sector is the most likely segment of society where corruption is noticed everywhere in the world, including the UAE, the guest of the show was Dr Ahmad Saif Belhasa, Chairman of the UAE Contractors Association.

Achieving 6.1 out of 10 points in a questionnaire-based survey by the ITO meant that there still is corruption to the tune of 3.9 points in the UAE, said Belhasa, adding: “This rate of corruption could be attributed to the lack of federal legislation to fight corruption, to control government and private sectors’ administrative performance and for accountability and punishment.”

The UAE had seen investments to the tune of Dh180 billion during the past four years and 17,000 companies were registered in this sector. Corruption could be found in the sector because of the involvement of a number of parties including the investor, a finance body, which could be an international authority, governments, private sector, consultant and the contractor, he observed.

“There is no federal law concerned with building. There is no government authority governing the construction sector, no accountability and no punishments to companies or individuals involved in corruption,” he said. “The absence of laws leads to corruption.”

However, Dr Ateeq Jekah, a professor of administration in the UAE University, believed that the real rate of corruption in the UAE should be higher than what has come out in the report.

“After being in the 37th position in the 2003 report, the UAE has shown a great improvement by climbing to 29 last year as a result of Dubai’s administrative performance, high level of transparency and accuracy observed in the emirate’s government departments, including the judicial authorities and the growth in its construction investments,” he said.

“If the ITO, which is an impartial and non-governmental body, has surveyed the different emirates, the rate would have remained the same if not worse. Corruption in other emirates is higher. Ministers are, in many cases, leaders of corruption in the country,” he said, disagreeing with an opinion that expatriates are behind the corruption.

“In many cases, projects have not been announced for bidding appropriately. Similarly, the Audit Bureau has discovered embezzlement at ministries,” observed Dr Ateeq, who called for prosecuting offenders and punishing them demonstrably to make an example of them for others.

Comparing the conditions in the top and lowest 20 countries, Dr Mohammed bin Hweiden, a professor at the UAE University, agreed with Dr Ateeq that the report was not accurate and Dubai’s regulations and rules helped in reducing the UAE’s rates of corruption.

Dr Mohammed bin Hweiden said rich countries enjoying democracy and freedom of expression had the lowest rates of corruption, whereas, the most corrupt countries were the poorest that had dictatorial regimes.

Governments can mitigate corruption by carrying out political reforms and maintaining democracy and freedom, noted Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, the professor at the UAE University, who added: “In the UAE we need to adopt a general policy taken up by a courageous leader and supported by a federal law to fight corruption.”

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