The Integrity Commission is accused of corruption

Iraq’s Integrity Commission has the task of conducting investigations into cases of government corruption. But many specialists in financial and administrative corruption have raised doubts about the integrity of the Commission itself.

There have been several media reports that inspectors sent to investigate corruption within government institutions have hidden information, and then dropped all charges.

Aqeel al-Turaihi, a public inspector at the Interior Ministry, admitted that there are some corrupt members in the inspection teams. “They are not all angels and may be tempted to accept bribes,” he said.

But, he said, many measures have been taken to guarantee the integrity of the Commission.

In addition to their salaries, members usually receive extra payments to cover their transport costs and get bonuses to compensate for the risks in their work.

Moreover, the public inspection offices of the Ministry of Interior are supported by teams composed of around ten people, whereas before, each team was composed of 3 to 5 members.

"When I receive complaints of corruption in the Ministry of Interior or some of its departments, I form teams composed of large numbers of inspectors to ensure that they are not bribed,” said al-Turaihi, explaining the procedures adopted by his Ministry.

The Integrity Commission was formed in 2004 as an independent body under the authority of the Iraqi parliament. Earlier this year, the Supreme Federal Court decided to place it under the supervision of the Council of Ministers.

From time to time, the Commission speaks about corruption in government institutions. But until now, it has not touched upon corruption cases within the Commission itself.

However, media outlets regularly receive complaints from people saying that there are corrupt employees within the Commission.

One of those complaints came six months ago from staff at the Federation of Trade Unions.

Workers claimed that its Board of Directors had embezzled their salaries and monopolized the revenues of the Federation, amounting to more than 20 million Iraqi dinar per month.

The Commission, after investigating the allegations, dropped all charges against the Board. Subsequently, it was discovered that the investigation committee had been bribed to reach its conclusions.

A source at the Integrity Commission told Niqash that cases of corruption are not made public because the Commission is keen to preserve the trust of the people.

But he said that the Commission closely monitors the performance of its staff members. “A number of corrupt people, including senior managers, have been exposed, expelled and are being prosecuted,” he added. Figures from the Commission’s official website show that over 4,00 warrants were issued against government employees, and files of over 2,000 people were sent to court.

The Ministry of Defence had the most number of staff accused of corruption, followed by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works.

The cost of these corruption cases is estimated at US$31 billion.

In spite of the measures taken by the Commission, in co-operation with the Public Inspector‘s Office in each Ministry, Iraq is still ranked the fourth most corrupt country in the world, according to a 2010 report by Transparency International.

Some members of the investigation teams say that this is because many political parties interfere in their work.

Anwar Mustafa used to work at the Public Inspector’s Office at the Ministry of Environment. She said that she left her job after being threatened by an influential political party, which attempted to bribe her to abandon the investigation she was conducting.

"In the beginning, I did not succumb to the pressures they exerted on me. But then, a person, who is close to the party, told me verbally to abandon the investigation or be ready to face the consequences.”

She refused to reveal the identity of the person who threatened her, but said he owned one of the factories which is polluting the waters of the Tigris river.

She also said he was well-connected to an influential party, and therefore difficult to challenge.

Some of her colleagues, said Mustafa, accepted bribes, not because of the money, but to avoid being threatened.

“If one or more members of the team accept bribes to end a certain case, the rest of the team is left with only three options: they can either complain against their fellow colleagues, accept the bribes or leave their job.”