*** ----> Bahrain Shura rejects proposal to allow government employees to run businesses | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Bahrain Shura rejects proposal to allow government employees to run businesses

TDT | Manama                                                       

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

Reported by Mahir Haneef

It may not be surprising that the Shura Council again rejected the proposal to allow government employees to conduct businesses along with their jobs but the council, which is lately acting as the watchdog against irresponsible legislation, gave clear-cut reasons for doing so during yesterday’s session.

As the proposal may now be put to vote during a joint session of the Council of Representatives and the Shura Council, called the National Assembly, where the proposal needs a majority to be passed, it is more the reason to look at the points that forced the Shura to give a thumbs down to a proposal that easily passed the Council of Representatives.

Yesterday’s session at the Shura Council began with the report of a parliamentary committee that looked at the pros and cons of the proposal. The committee, headed by MP Dr. Mohammed Ali Al Khuzaai, found several reasons to disagree with the proposal to allow government employees to engage in businesses while still working.

Key concerns raised by the committee included conflict of interest, economic harm, security risks, regulation mismatch, objection by relevant bodies, and worldwide practice.

Conflict of Interest

The practice of commerce by a public employee will undoubtedly result in him intentionally or unintentionally doing his own business even at the time of employment, the committee chairperson argued.

It will inevitably result in disrupting the interests of citizens and their dissatisfaction with the services provided to them, the chairperson submitted while stressing that it will result in a conflict between the employee’s personal interest and public interest.

Economic Harm

Allowing government employees to own commercial registrations for businesses would only worsen the rental situation and would lead to damage to the local economy, the chairperson said. It would also create an unfair competition for existing businesses and would cause a situation where it would be difficult to tighten the control over them or properly inspect the businesses, the committee said.

Security Risks

Public sector employees might gain undue access to bank loans and facilities due to their positions if they are allowed to own commercial registrations, the committee noted.

Regulation Mismatch

The proposal to allow government officials to own commercial registrations does not fit in with the existing law regarding civil service and all the employee-related laws would have to be changed to allow such a proposal, the committee said.

Moreover, the proposal also suffers from the fault of not fitting the regulatory scope of the civil service law as the proposal is about control over doing business, which are outside the scope of the provisions regulated by the civil service law, the committee pointed out.

Objections from Relevant Bodies

Bodies or associations representing the civil societies and businessmen have opposed the proposal to allow government employees to own commercial registrations, the committee said.

No Global Example

Further, the committee noted that most countries have explicitly banned government employees for engaging in commercial activities.

Outright ban on such a practice in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, and Libya were cited by the committee. Citing the legal and economic concerns, the committee recommended rejecting the proposal and a majority of the Shura Council members voted against allowing the proposal.

Arguments by MPs

The MPs who made submissions during yesterday’s Shura Council meeting included Ali Abdulla Ali Husain Alaradi, who cited the difficulty in requiring a government employee to maintain neutrality and asked whether a government employee will be able to have no contact with his company or its business during working hours.

It is not possible, the MP argued. Further, the MP asked how a government employee can be held responsible if the company he is involved with commits a violation of law. If the case reaches court, will the government employee be tried as a public official or as a private person, the MP asked.

It should be noted that most countries offer legal protection to acts in good faith by government employees. The MP also said the government employee would try to use his name and access to further business interests and it would be difficult to control it.

While the idea is beautiful, the implementation is impossible as it would affect public service, would create conflict of interest, will lead to rental of public records, and ultimately the goal will not be achieved, the MP submitted, while pointing out that of all the countries in the world, very few countries permit government employees to engage in businesses.

MP Dalal Jasim Abdulla AlZayed submitted that the proposal goes against the rulings of the highest court in the Kingdom. The proposal also takes away the equality between public and private employees. As the penalty for negligence of public duties proposed is dismissal, this would ultimately harm the government employees as dismissal from service administratively is legitimate and enforceable even if an acquittal comes later, the MP said


MP Ali Abdulla Ali Husain Alaradi


MP Dr. Mohammed Ali Al Khuzaai


MP Dalal Jasim Abdulla Al-Zayed