x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Demonstrators stage sit-in at Oman's Tender Board in bribery protest

Protesters allege that top officials at the contracting agency in Muscat regularly receive kickbacks from the billions of rials in contracts awarded every year.

MUSCAT // Anti-corruption protesters gathered in front of an Omani government building yesterday demanding an end to what they claimed were misuse of lucrative state contracts.

In the latest incident in four weeks of protests, about 100 demonstrators staged a sit-in at the headquarters of the state's Tender Board in Muscat.

The participants alleged that top officials of the contracting agency regularly receive kickbacks from the billions of rials in contracts awarded every year. "It is easy to get rich when you work at the Tender Board. We want a clear and transparent strategy established to make sure that this does not happen," Awadh Khalaf, a protester, said.

Last year, Oman awarded construction contracts worth 3.5 billion rials (Dh30.1bn), including a 706 million rial deal for the construction of a new terminal building at Muscat International Airport.

Demonstrations in Oman turned violent in the north-eastern town of Sohar on February 27, with one protester being killed there by security forces.

About 50 people continue to sleep in tents at the Globe Roundabout in Sohar, and some are also camped at the Shura Council headquarters in Muscat.

Oman's leader, Sultan Qaboos, moved to ease tensions two weeks ago by promising 50,000 new jobs and unemployment benefits amounting to 150 rials each month.

Sultan Qaboos also said a study would be conducted on widening the power of the Shura Council.

He also sacked 12 ministers, after increased pressure from protesters to tackle corruption.