The cost of corruption around the world is estimated at $2.6 trillion, with bribes estimated at $1 trillion per year. Sixty years ago, a law to enhance integrity and fight corruption was introduced in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, it was not fully activated until the restructuring of the Anti-Corruption Commission in 2019, which gave it broad and exceptional powers by a Royal Order of King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
Administrative practices that violate regulations are not considered a phenomenon. However, some cases have been recorded in some governmental and private facilities and the Commission’s monitoring efforts alone are not enough, as full cooperation by society is vital. The Commission’s Control and Investigation Board stated that complaints by citizens and residents increased by 300 percent between 2016 and 2019, with the greatest increase happening in 2019. This is evidence of the people’s realization that they have a duty to report infringements, such as shortcomings in the provision of services and projects. It also reveals the great trust in the state’s monitoring bodies after it adopted a policy of defaming the corrupt.
The involvement of citizens in reporting violations started with late journalist Suleiman al-Issa through his well-known program “With the people,” which aired for over 25 years between 1974 and 1999. The Saudi society at the time avoided reporting violations due to a lack of trust in the relevant authorities’ interest and the belief that reporting violations will get the reporter in trouble. The latter issue was resolved when a decision was taken to pardon bribers if they identify the bribe takers.
The Kingdom is keen on societal involvement (in its digital form nowadays), and on enabling Saudis to find solutions to their problems, participate in suggesting new services, and provide feedback on the government’s management of public facilities. This is done through applications such as Adaa, the National Center for Performance Measurement, the E-Participation portal with the Royal Court, and the involvement of citizens in decision-making through platforms such as: Sharikna Al Qarar, an e-portal provided by the Ministry of Commerce; Ein Al Afkar, provided by the Ministry of Education; Fikra, provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Balady, an application to report violations to the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.
Vision 2030 works on building a balanced national Saudi personality that strives for the ideal, upholds the values of justice and goodness, and invests in people and the homeland. The Kingdom has experienced many transformations in the different stages of its development. These have culminated in the Kingdom becoming a role model in government administration and the fight against corruption. The Kingdom’s success is seen in the testimony of an Arab citizen who protested his government’s corruption saying: “We want Prince Mohammed bin Salman in our country.” This testimony of truth mirrors the success of the Vision’s patron and his team of excellence.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh.