Omair denies politicizing oil sector appointments – Land allocations by PAAAFR fishy

KUWAIT: Oil Minister Ali Al-Omair yesterday categorically denied press reports that his proposed appointments in the oil sector are for political reasons aimed at controlling the vital sector. Omair also denied a report in Al-Rai newspaper which alleged that Omair was behind the appointment of two relatives as employees in the oil sector, saying the two are not related to him. The paper claimed in its edition yesterday that the two are members of the Omair family and related to the minister. The minister insisted that he has proposed to appoint 23, and not 43 as claimed, executives in oil companies out of 61, which also refutes that the aim is to wrest control of the vital sector.

Omair however did not say when he will announce the new appointments, which have triggered a controversy. The minister said that the officials he proposed for appointment represent all sections of the society and meet the conditions required for the appointment. He said a number of them are academics and some have experience in the oil sector. The reported appointments have triggered a controversy, with a number of newspapers targeting Omair and accusing him of appointing his relatives and others who backed his election campaign as a candidate in parliamentary elections. The minister categorically denied that he exploited his political post to appoint any of his relatives or friends.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary panel that probed allegations of illegal distribution of farmland to citizens yesterday completed its report and called for referring a number of officials to the public prosecution. Member of the committee MP Khalil Abul said the probe reached a conclusion of suspected profiteering in the Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAAFR). The lawmaker said the committee recommended that the entire issue be referred to the public prosecution for legal investigation.

It also recommended that all officials at PAAAFR including the former director and the current acting director be referred to the public prosecution. The case came to light several months ago when allegations were made that hundreds of state-owned plots of farmland and those housing stables for animals were distributed to people who do not meet the required preconditions. The decision of the committee also calls on the concerned minister to suspend all those the panel called for sending to the public prosecution, Abul said.

The committee also wants the concerned minister to supply the names of those who illegally benefited from the land since 2006. Abul said the committee called on the authorities to withdraw state land granted to those who do not fulfill the requirements and ask the National Assembly speaker to sue all officials who provided false or insufficient information to the parliamentary probe panel during the investigation. In the meantime, MP Nabeel Al-Fadhl yesterday proposed a draft law calling to end all forms of subsidies on electricity, water and fuel provided to state departments.

The bill stipulates that all forms of subsidies on these services be suspended immediately for all government offices and departments, saying that the policy of subsidizing services given to government departments has not been successful. The new proposal does not apply to individuals.

By B Izzak

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