Manama: In an unprecedented decision since the parliament was launched in 2002, Bahrain’s lawmakers have voted to quiz the finance minister in a public session.
Shaikh Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al Khalifa will be questioned on financial irregularities mentioned in the report prepared by the Financial Audit Bureau.
However, no date has yet been decided for the open floor quizzing that will mark a historic departure from past grilling behind closed doors.
A parliamentary commission had been set up to look into the proposal to grill the finance minister and its members recommended that the minister not be summoned to parliament.
However, on Tuesday, 13 lawmakers turned down the recommendation and voted for the minister to be questioned in a public session, while 10 MPs said they endorsed it. Two lawmakers abstained while others did not attend the session for various reasons.
Parliament Minister Abdul Aziz Al Fadhel attempted to abort the drive by lawmakers to push for the questioning by arguing that the required majority had not been reached but his attempt was overruled by the parliament legal consultant who insisted that the voting was within the confines of the bylaws.
Parliamentary life in Bahrain was revived in 2002 with the promulgation of a new constitution as part of sweeping reforms launched by King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa who assumed power in March 1999 following the death of his father Shaikh Eisa.
Parliamentary elections were held in 2002, 2006 and 2010. By-elections were held in 2011 after the opposition members of the 2010 parliament left in February.
The Financial Audit Bureau report published in November detailed several financial abuses, prompting the Prime Minister Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa to order the formation of a committee to probe the allegations of financial irregularities.
The committee, chaired by Crown Prince and First Deputy Premier Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, comprised the four deputy premiers. It sat with all ministers and addressed all the issues and loopholes mentioned in the report. The Follow-up Affairs Ministry, tasked with scrutinising the report, covered 462 cases outlined by the report and recommended referring 20 cases of non-compliance to the anti-corruption and economic and electronic security general directorate.
It also referred 38 cases of violations to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Legal Affairs in order to form internal committees for investigation and 404 procedural violations to the Follow-up Affairs Ministry to take appropriate action in co-ordination with other government entities.