The following commentary originally appeared in Musings On Iraq
As reported earlier, corruption within the Iraqi government is endemic. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has never been committed to fighting it because investigations make his government look bad. The U.S. has also been lackluster in pushing for oversight as well. Recent reports show that the situation has not gotten any better.
The New York Times for example, recently reported that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is secretly getting rid of anti-corruption officials. The article said that up to seventeen officials might have been pushed out or replaced recently. Seven to nine of them were inspector generals in ministries such as Water Resources, Culture, Trade, Youth and Sport, and perhaps Foreign Affairs, along with the Central Bank of Iraq, the Sunni Endowment, and the Christian Endowment. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) confirmed at least six removals. Maliki supporters claim there is nothing behind the Prime Minister’s actions, while others are afraid that he will replace the officials with Dawa members or worse, it is a move to slowly end oversight within the government.
Anti-corruption investigations were already hobbled before Maliki’s recent actions. The main oversight agency, the Commission on Public Integrity recently announced that it had sent 337 cases to court in 2008. At the same time, only 86 people had been actually convicted, and most of those were very low-level officials who were mostly selling fake papers to Iraqis who wanted to flee the country. The Commission also noted that the Amnesty Law, which was supposed to promote reconciliation by releasing Sunnis from Iraqi jails, has also stopped investigations of 1,721 officials. That was more than half of its cases. The commission also doesn’t operate outside of Baghdad, severely limiting what it can and cannot do. Its previous head, Judge Rati al-Rathi constantly clashed with Maliki and ministers over investigations. Maliki demanded that all cases be okayed by him, and he often wanted them stopped. Rathi fled Iraq in 2007 due to threats, and was replaced by Judge Rahim al-Ogaili who supports getting rid of inspector generals. Rathi later told the U.S. House of Representatives in October 2007 that corruption cost Iraq $18 billion from 2004-2007.
Under the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) the United States set up Iraq’s oversight apparatus. Inspector Generals were created and appointed by the Americans in each Iraqi ministry and sub-ministries, along with the Board of Supreme Audit that was to oversee the budget, and the Commission on Public Integrity that was to investigate the entire government. The U.S. however was never committed to fighting corruption in the first place, and when sovereignty was turned over to the Iraqis, the situation became worse as none of the preceding governments were interested either.
For more on corruption in Iraq see:
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s Quarterly October Report
Corruption and Reporting In Kurdistan
Iraqi Corruption Remains Endemic
Glanz, James and Mohammed, Riyadh, “Premier of Iraq Is Quietly Firing Fraud Monitors,” New York Times, 11/18/08
Kadhim, Abbas, “A Plan for Post-Surge Iraq,” Strategic Insights, November 2007
Reuters, “Iraq Says 300 Officials Charged With Corruption,” 11/18/08
Schoof, Renee, “Iraqi judge: Corruption undermines Iraq’s future,” McClatchy Newspapers, 10/4/07
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/08