Foreign firms have identified corruption as a barrier to investment in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has a relatively comprehensive legal framework that addresses corruption, but many firms perceive enforcement as selective. The Combating Bribery Law and the Civil Service Law, the two primary Saudi laws that address corruption, provide for criminal penalties in cases of official corruption. Government employees who are found guilty of accepting bribes face 10 years in prison or fines up to one million riyals ($267,000). Ministers and other senior government officials appointed by royal decree are forbidden from engaging in business activities with their ministry or organization. Saudi corruption laws cover most methods of bribery and abuse of authority for personal interest, but not bribery between private parties. Only senior Oversight and Anti-Corruption Commission (“Nazaha”) officials are subject to financial disclosure laws. The government is considering disclosure regulations for other officials, but has yet to finalize them. Some officials have engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and perceptions of corruption persist in some sectors, but combatting corruption remains a priority.
Nazaha, originally established in 2011, is responsible for promoting transparency and combating all forms of financial and administrative corruption In December 2019, King Salman issued royal decrees consolidating the Control and Investigation Board and the Mabahith’s Administrative Investigations Directorate under the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and renamed the new entity as the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Commission (“Nazaha”). The decrees consolidated investigations and prosecutions under the new Nazaha and mandated that the Public Prosecutor’s Office transfer any ongoing corruption investigations to the newly consolidated commission. Nazaha reports directly to King Salman and has the power to dismiss a government employee even if not found guilty by the specialized anti-corruption court.
Since its reorganization, Nazaha has not shied away from prosecuting influential players whose indiscretions may previously have been ignored. Throughout 2020, Nazaha published monthly press releases detailing its arrests and investigations, often including high-ranking officials, such as generals and judges, from every ministry in the SAG. The releases are available on the Nazaha website ( http://www.nazaha.gov.sa/en/Pages/Default.aspx ).
SAMA, the central bank, oversees a strict regime to combat money laundering. Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Money Laundering Law provides for sentences up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $1.3 million. The Basic Law of Governance contains provisions on proper management of state assets and authorizes audits and investigation of administrative and financial malfeasance.
The Government Tenders and Procurement Law regulates public procurements, which are often a source of corruption. The law provides for public announcement of tenders and guidelines for the award of public contracts. Saudi Arabia is an observer of the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA)
Saudi Arabia ratified the UN Convention against Corruption in April 2013 and signed the G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan in November 2010. Saudi Arabia was admitted to the OECD Working Group on Bribery in February 2021.
Globally, Saudi Arabia ranks 52 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2020.
Resources to Report Corruption
The National Anti-Corruption Commission’s address is:
National Anti-Corruption Commission
P.O. Box (Wasl) 7667, AlOlaya – Ghadir District
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Nazaha accepts complaints about corruption through its website www.nazaha.gov.sa or mobile application.