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Rampant Corruption Threatens Development

Haider Najm
Reports published by the Iraqi government as well as a number of national and international organizations clearly state that the country’s government institutions continue to be plagued by rampant financial and…
19.03.2009  |  Baghdad

The Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity, an independent commission tasked with investigating Iraqi government corruption, has continuously stressed that the phenomenon represents the most serious hurdle blocking reconstruction and the implementation of development projects.

According to the Commission millions of dollars have been lost to corruption during the last years. The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, meanwhile, says Iraq is one of the most corrupt countries in the world – only Somalia ranked worse. Furthermore, Iraq is ranked as the third most unstable country after Sudan and Somalia according to the annual failed states index compiled by the U.S Foreign Policy magazine.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says he is doing his best to address the issue and has threatened state employees with strong punishment if they engage in corruption. During campaigning for the recent provincial elections the Prime Minister repeatedly stressed the need to curtail corrupt practices running through government institutions.

"We are committed to clamping down on financial and administrative corruption. The achievement of security will offer us the opportunity to fight corruption,” said al-Maliki, who called on the public to report corrupt practices and persons.

Nevertheless, to date, the Prime Minister's statements have not produced meaningful results. Sabah al-Sa'idi, the Chairman of Iraq’s Commission on Public Integrity, told Niqash that corruption continues to be rampant, crippling most government ministries.

"Widespread financial and administrative corruption in a number of ministries feeds on political corruption which is… cautiously covered up by political organs,” Sa’idi told Niqash. According to Sa’idi a large number of political forces exist "to support corrupt officials and employees in the ministries."

Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh acknowledged that despite government efforts, through support of regulatory institutions and other initiatives, "the fight against corruption and its eradication require a national initiative and an Iraqi determination, as well as the support of the international community."

Saleh said that the government wants to introduce a new law to combat corruption and money laundering, as well as other anti-corruption measures including rewards for whistleblowers and a review of reconstruction contracts. The government also wants to expand the powers of the Integrity Commission.

Some Iraqi officials blame "the policy of occupation" for the spread of corruption, accusing U.S military commanders and foreign consultants of allowing the practice to emerge and flourish in different ministries.

"There was a misappropriation of US $8.8 billion during the term of the Coalition Provisional Authority headed by the civil administrator Paul Bremer, who disrupted the investigative role of the courts,” said Abdel-Basit Turki, Chairman of the Financial Supervision Office. Turki called for a comprehensive disclosure of the funds which have been disbursed since the U.S occupation began.

Additionally, critics point to the fragile political climate of recent years as a prime reason for the emergence of corruption. According to Mahdi Hafez, the former Minister of Planning and head of the Iraqi Institute for Development, the struggle for political power between competing groups created the conditions for corruption.

"The intensity of the political conflict for power led to the emergence of a number of governmental entities sharing different interests and priorities,” he said. “This conflict created an appropriate climate for the spread of corruption along with the conditions of political instability, sectarian fight, the deteriorating security situation and the absence of the required protection of the organs, institutions and officials in charge of fighting corruption."