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Wednesday
Jun242015

Shoot the messenger: Kuwait dissolves Transparency International local chapter

Kuwait's Social Affairs and Labor Ministry issued a decree on May 7 that dissolved the board of the independent Kuwaiti Transparency Society (KTS).

The decree put the group's management under five government appointees.

The government appointees fired the group's local staff and sold its assets, Global Witness reported.

KTS is the local chapter of Berlin-based Transparency International. TI is best known for its Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks most countries by their perceived graft.

Kuwait ranked 67 on the latest CPI, tied with South Africa.

Members of Kuwait’s national assembly had accused Transparency International of exaggerating the level of corruption in Kuwait and pursuing a political agenda.

TI denied the accusations.

“Kuwait has put in question both its willingness to tolerate criticism and its commitment to combat corruption,” TI deputy regional director Joe Stork said.

“This looks like a classic case of shooting the messenger as a substitute for tackling the real problem,” Stork said.

The Kuwait TI chapter was accredited by ministerial decree in 2006, with a stated purpose of opposing corruption by promoting transparency and reform.

Its bylaws prohibit it from “intervening in politics,” Global Witness said.

On February 9, Youssef al-Zalzala, a member of Kuwait’s National Assembly, accused the group in media interviews of pursuing a political agenda.

A day earlier, World Bank officials reportedly expressed concern about Kuwait’s CPI ranking. Al-Zalzala then threatened to "use all means available to the national assembly to investigate the Kuwait organization," Global Witness said.

On June 11, Transparency International suspended the Kuwait chapter's membership, saying it didn't recognize the new government-appointed board.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.