Lawmaker questions education minister over school fee hikes

Court backs shelving Dow case – Ex-justice ministers probed as anti-graft tips pour in

KUWAIT: MP Farraj Al-Arbeed yesterday asked the education minister about the mechanism of increasing fees of private Arab and foreign schools in the country, saying that in some cases annual fee hikes reach five percent. The lawmaker asked the minister if there are any laws and regulations or ministerial decisions that govern the change in school fees. Arbeed said private schools tend to raise their fees almost annually, reaching as high as five percent in some cases, making some families unable to cope with this sharp increase in school costs.

The lawmaker asked about the number of private schools that have operated under the education ministry from 2010 to date, and inquired if those schools are classified on the basis of well-established rules. He asked if the ministry has registered any violations against the schools and requested the number of such citations in the past three years.

Meanwhile, the criminal court yesterday supported a decision by the public prosecution to shelve the Dow Chemical case in which Kuwait was ordered to pay a fine close to $2.5 billion for unilaterally scrapping an agreement with the US chemical company. The case had triggered a major political crisis in Kuwait when opposition MPs about a decade ago put tremendous pressure on the government to scrap the joint venture agreement, saying it was not in the interest of Kuwait.

Later, the company complained to an international arbitrator which ordered Kuwait to pay the huge fine amid accusations by MPs that the whole issue involved corruption. The lawmakers that time called on the government to refer the case to the public prosecution to investigate the possibility of wrongdoing by officials of the oil ministry. But the public prosecution decided to shelve the case after it found no wrongdoing. The government’s legal department appealed against the decision to the criminal court, which decided yesterday that the prosecution’s decision was correct.

The Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha) said yesterday that it has received 246 tips about potential cases of corruption and that over 14,000 senior government employees have submitted their wealth disclosure forms in accordance with the law, forming about 91 percent of staff covered by the law.

In a related development, the public prosecutor yesterday referred former justice ministers Yacoub Al-Sane and Falah Al-Azab to the investigation panel of the ministers’ trial court for suspected public fund violations over the appointment of ministry experts without any admission tests or interviews. The two ministers could face charges of mismanagement. The ministers were responsible for appointing over 560 justice experts, whose appointments were nullified by the court of cassation last week.

The court said the process had involved serious violations of recruitment conditions such as being subjected to oral and written admission tests that would clearly assess the results and determine those who passed or failed. “Some of the involved experts were appointed through exemptions made by some senior officials at the experts department,” said informed sources, noting that this led a number of lawyers to file cases to annul their appointment, while other legal solutions are being currently sought to reappoint those recruited according to regulations. “They may have to pass tests this month and immediately get appointed if they pass,” the sources concluded.

By B Izzak and A Saleh

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