In a new push to weed out corruption and graft, Qatar’s public prosecution’s office has launched an advertising campaign urging residents to act as government whistleblowers.
Yesterday, the campaign debuted with an advertisement in Al Raya. The main text states, “Qatar deserves to be protected from corruption.”
In a play on the famous maxim of the three wise monkeys, who “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” this ad features two men and a woman pantomiming, “I hear, I see and I speak.”
In an interview with Doha News, a representative at the public prosecution’s office explained that the aim of the campaign was to encourage Qatar residents to report financial corruption in government organizations, including bribes and embezzlement of public funds.
“The complaint could be against any regular employee in the government sector or a high-ranking official like the vice president of an organization,” he said.
The ad states that corruption causes “economic, political and social instability.”
Speaking to Al Raya, many businessmen said that the private sector in Qatar suffers a great deal from corruption, especially when companies illegally win bids and contracts through bribes, while other law-abiding companies are left to suffer from financial loss.
The advertisement also promises, “The hand of justice will catch you.”
This is not the first time that Qatar has sought help from residents in keeping the country in pristine shape.
Last year, authorities launched a public awareness campaign aimed at reducing littering, abandoning vehicles and spitting in public, among other bad habits.
However, the campaign’s billboards and posters – some of which depicted a cartoon silhouette of a boy peeking out from behind a table with the text “We all see you/You are not alone” – caused confusion and concern among some residents who said it made them feel like the government was spying on them.
Although Qatar is considered one of the least corrupt countries in the Middle East, the nation has been stepping up efforts to eradicate corruption from the public sector since the new Emir took power in 2013.
In April 2014 for example, a Syrian woman was convicted of trying to bribe a Civil Defense officer in Qatar, as part of the ongoing government crackdown building safety, following the deadly 2012 Villiago Mall fire.
She remains out of jail pending her appeal verdict. If the lower court’s ruling is upheld, she faces a year in prison and deportation to her home country – as well as the forfeiture of QR10,000.
In December, Qatar moved up two spots to 26th out of 175 countries around the world in terms of perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to a 2014 index.
While it maintained its favorable status, the 2014 report stated that graft and related issues remain the biggest challenge in the Middle East:
”Political elites in the region have systematically abused their authority and operate with often startling levels of impunity. They have safeguarded their personal interests through undue influence and networks of patronage,” the report said.
Residents who wish to submit complaints can call 33531999- 33431999, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous tips are welcome, the representative said:
“Callers aren’t required to leave a name or any personal details to protect their identity and guarantee that no penalty will be taken against them.”
When asked about what happens in the case of false complaints due to office feuds or personal grudges, the representative said that the prosecution looks through all the complaints.
But they only open official investigations if there is enough suspicion or evidence to back them, he said, adding:
”We need to be sure that the complaint is valid before starting an official investigation because this will harm government officials’ reputations and status.”