Report: Corruption Investigations in Iraq Stopped in Their Tracks

By Maddy Sauer

Apr 30, 2007 12:01am

Investigations into government corruption in Iraq are being stopped in their tracks due to an antiquated law that has been reinstated by the prime minister, according to a report to be released today by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. The report says that corruption in Iraq is a "major impediment to Iraq’s development and growth." The special inspector general estimates that more than $5 billion a year of Iraqi government funds are diverted due to corruption and charges that some in the Iraqi government have been hindering ongoing investigations. A large part of the problem, according to the report, is that Iraq’s prime minister’s office is using a law dating back to the 1970s to stop ongoing investigations in their tracks. The law says that no case can go forward without the approval of the minister of the affected agency. So far, the report says that various agency ministers have stopped the prosecution and investigation of 102 individuals involved in 48 cases. The prime minister’s office has also ordered that any case involving a minister or former minister must have the approval of the prime minister before it can be recommended to an investigative court. One of the cases, which has been referred to the prime minister’s office, involves eight ministers and 40 directors general who are accused of mismanaging $8 billion.  Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. A case against the minister of oil was also referred to the prime minister’s office following the arrest of one of the oil minister’s directors.  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is not named directly in the report, admitted in an interview with al-Iraqiyah television last year that corruption in general is a problem, but he refused to name those responsible for it.  "We suffer in terms of security and administrative corruption," he said. "However, and in accordance with the government plan, we will use force and will be hard and pursue those who tamper with people’s funds. I cannot reveal the names of those who were arrested, expelled or brought to account for their corruption." The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has appointed a director of the Office of Accountability and Transparency (OAT) to advise Iraqis how to investigate corruption within their own government. According to the OAT, the biggest problems hampering the investigations are "lack of security for investigators and the limited ability of ministers to stop specific corruption investigations in their ministries." The Ministry of Oil, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense are the subjects of the most corruption claims, said the inspector general’s report. Meanwhile, Iraq has committed to establishing a Joint Anti-Corruption Council that will include representatives from the prime minister’s office, the courts and representatives from both the U.S. and U.K. embassies. The report said a committee was scheduled to meet back in February to sign the charter establishing the council but that the meeting was postponed by the Iraqi government. Read the inspector general’s report. Vote: Should the U.S. intervene in corruption in Iraq?

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