The parliamentary Budgets and Final Accounts Committee on Monday discussed the 2021/2022 budget and final accounts for fiscals 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 of the Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAAFR). In a press statement, the committee disclosed that the expenditures of PAAAFR for fiscals 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 reached KD83 million and KD93 million respectively; while its revenues reached KD6 million and KD3 million respectively. The authority’s expenditure in the 2021/2022 budget is estimated at KD98 million, while the revenue is estimated at KD 5.7 million.
The committee also noticed the government’s lack of clear vision on putting PAAAFR under one ministry as it is currently affiliated to several ministries, some of which are irrelevant and they have nothing to do with the main task of PAAAFR — ensure food security. The committee recorded comments on violations uncovered at PAAAFR, such as signing contracts without obtaining approval from the State Audit Bureau (SAB). The committee pointed out as well that the national production of fish declined by 49 percent in the last decade; adding that PAAAFR achieved self-sufficiency in just one food item — eggs, while the production of the most food products has declined.
The committee revealed the area for planting vegetables increased only by four percent over the last 10 years and this does not match the rising number of agricultural plots granted to citizens, which increased by 44 percent during the same period. The committee tackled administrative, financial and monitoring violations regarding contracts; and it has given PAAAFR one month to address these violations and submit a report in this regard.
On Tuesday, the committee deliberated on the final account for fiscal 2019 /2020 and budget for fiscal 2021/2022 of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the presence of Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Muhammad. Chairman of the committee Badr Al-Mullah revealed that the actual expenditure of the ministry for fiscal 2019 /2020 reached KD125 million, while the estimated expenditure for the following year is KD235 million. He said the committee found out that the ministry did not specify the amount allocated for diplomatic delegations — Kuwaiti embassies and consulates in different countries. The ministry justified this, stating that the automated system shows the data repeatedly. The ministry then affirmed that it is keen on coordinating with its finance counterpart and the Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK) in order to avoid going beyond the specified limits, he added.
The committee stressed the need to activate the automated link between the headquarters of the ministry and overseas delegations to intensify control and monitoring operations. During the meeting, the ministry briefed the committee on the expropriation of buildings abroad instead of renting; indicating it owns 46 buildings with a total value of KD558 million and the expropriation cost is KD134 million.
The committee suggested revision of the salary scale for employees at Kuwaiti embassies; pointing out the salaries of these employees increase regularly, such that the total amount spent on salaries reached KD16 million last year. Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Muhammad said his ministry is currently studying the possibility of increasing fees for obtaining Kuwaiti visa, especially since the last time that Kuwait increased such fees was in 2005. He added the ministry is coordinating with the European Union to exempt Kuwaitis from paying Schengen visa fees, confirming that Italy supports Kuwait in this regard. In another development, MP Saleh Zeiab Al-Mutairi suggested postponing the grilling motion against Minister of Health Dr Basel Al-Sabah until the end of the coronavirus crisis.
However, if the MPs who filed the grilling motion decide to push through with the grilling, he will support them. He argued the grilling motion should have been filed against His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid, because the committee tasked to deal with coronavirus consists of several ministers. “As a doctor, I think that grilling the health minister now will lead to the collapse of the health system,” he asserted. Furthermore, MP Musaed Al- Ardi forwarded queries to Minister of Interior Sheikh Thamer Ali Al-Sabah about the number, names and qualifications of employees who will undergo the customs inspector training course at Kuwait General Administration of Customs (KGAC).
He wants to know how many passed the written exam and interview, as well as the total number of applicants. He asked for the names of the members of the Admission Committee, their experience, if some of the employees who will undergo the training were exempted from the conditions to participate in the course, reasons behind the exemption, number of employees assigned at the Search and Investigations Office, their tasks, number of employees seconded to this office, copies of their qualification certificates, procedures in rewarding the inspectors to encourage them to confiscate banned substances, if any of the customs inspectors have been rewarded or honored in the last five years, and list of these inspectors if the answer is yes. MP Khalid Al-Otaibi asked Minister of Interior Sheikh Thamer Ali Al-Sabah about the human rights report that the US State Department released on March 30,2021. He said the report mentioned that in July 2020, Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior issued 17,000 passports (Article 17) to Bedouns who paid KD3,000 ($9,770) each as bribe for obtaining such passport from 2014 to 2018.