‘Hidden hands’ at work: Who’s really running Jordan’s energy sector?
It’s not everyday Jordan makes too much of a scuffle in the region. And on a state-level, Jordanian Parliamentary sessions are perhaps more famous for Wild West-style gun violence than anything else. At the least, disgruntled Parliamentarians have hurled water bottles and shoes at one another. At worst, they've fired Kalashnikov rifles.
So it was a bit of a scandal when corruption accusations ignited Parliamentary sessions last week as representatives cited abuses of power in planned projects within Jordan’s energy sector and called for Parliamentary Integrity Committee investigations.
Parliamentarians Khalil Ateih, Fawaz Alzougby and Faisal al-Dougmy asked Prime Minister Abdullah Nessour to work toward eliminating misconduct within the energy sector, which they say is “ruled by mafias.”
Mr. Ateih said “hidden hands” controlled the sector, referencing an alleged document from a previous Energy Minister, which he says chronicles specific violations.
Meanwhile, Rep. Mohammad al-Rayate said an energy project valued at more than JD 2 million has been given to an unnamed company without a tender. And Rep. Raed Al-Khalaile said a solar energy tender in Tafila was granted to Mr. Samer Judeh, brother of the Minister for Foreign Affairs Nasser Judeh, using “special treatment.”
Rep. Ali Sneed, who asked for the case to be directed to the Prosecutor, said the tender was given to Mr. Judeh by the Director of the Economical Directorate Mr. Samer Asfour in the Royal Court instead of through regular business channels required of other competing companies.
Project investors also complained the Wind Power Energy tender in Tafileh was given to Mr. Judeh before the acceptance window for other competitors’ submissions had expired.
Another source defended Mr. Judeh, saying that because he already owned the land marked for the project, his 85 Fils offer was a fair, perhaps even low price for the tender, especially in comparison with that of other competitor companies.
Minister of Energy Mohammad Hamed said claims of misconduct across the sector would not be taken lightly.
"There was not, and will not be any neglect in assessing any corruption case in the Energy Ministry or any other party that deals with the Energy Ministry," he said.
He added that Parliament members should send him any files or documents reporting violations so they could be transferred to the Anti-Corruption Directorate and the Prosecutor for examination.
While Rep. Dougmy agreed that the energy sector was brimming with corruption, he said Rep. Hamed was innocent in the claims. Still, he said, the Minister could not combat the systemic faults on his own.
He added that if Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour did not focus on amending the procedures within the Ministry’s energy bill soon, valuable projects would never get underway.
"I do not understand the silence against these mafias,” he said of PM Abdullah Nisour’s alleged lack of action.
Mafias or not, the good news here is no one’s pulled a gun yet!