Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Iraqi Corruption Remains Endemic

The Berlin based Transparency International released their annual Corruption Perceptions Index in September 2008 that found Iraq to be tied for the second most corrupt nation out of 180 countries. Myanmar was found to be the most corrupt, while Iraq was tied with Somalia. The Index used a ten point system with 0 being highly corrupt and 10 being clean. Iraq received a 1.3 score. This was actually an increase from the previous two years when Iraq was ranked the third most corrupt state on the Index.

After the Index was released, a member of Iraq’s Finance Committee in parliament said that the government needed to admit that it has a corruption problem before it can be fixed. He said that more oversight of the government was one possible cure. That seems unlikely. The Commission on Public Integrity (CPI), the main anti-corruption body within the government, has been unable to prosecute any government officials for corruption. The head of the CPI gave a press conference on August 30, 2008 saying that no official had even bothered filling out a financial disclosure form that every government employee is required to sign. He also said that the January 2008 Amnesty Law threatens up to 700 corruption cases in Baghdad alone. Iraq also lacks a functioning legal system to handle such cases, and it often takes bribes or connections to become a police officer. The CPI itself has been embattled since its inception with its first director, Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, quitting his job in September 2007, and later fleeing the country due to threats. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s main spokesman blamed corruption on the previous government, and Maliki himself has shown little concern about the problem.

To drive the findings of the Index home, it was released the same day as several high and low level officials from the Ministry of Trade were sacked for suspicion of involvement in corruption. The Director Generals of the State Company for Cars and Machinery, the Legal Department, and the Private Sector Directorate, along with lower officials from the departments in charge of importing grain and construction materials were all forced out. These dismissals were due to the work of parliament’s Integrity Committee that gained the signatures necessary to force out the officials. The Committee was hoping that the Trade Minister himself would be removed, but they were unsuccessful. A spokesman for the Trade Ministry asked why the ministry was being investigated when corruption was prevalent throughout the government.

U.S. officials agree that corruption is a major problem, but have done little about it. In August the Coordinator for Economic Transition at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said that corruption was still a big issue that negatively affected the business environment. He echoed a similar statement by the U.S. Embassy’s anti-corruption official in July, who said that the lack of transparency and clear rules promoted corruption amongst government officials and businesses trying to operate in the country. Even more damning was a 2007 report by the State Department, that was reported on before, that found corruption throughout almost every ministry in the government. How committed the United States is to stopping this issue however, has often been questioned. In May 2008, two former American anti-corruption officials that worked in Iraq in 2007 testified to Congress saying that the State Department was not concerned about the problem, and the U.S. Embassy often ignored the issue.

Corruption has a huge affect upon Iraq’s public. Many feel that they need to pay bribes to get any help from government officials. It leads to higher prices, and inadequate services. The Trade Ministry for example, is in charge of the daily rations, which have often been accused of using old and rotting food stuffs. Most importantly, it undermines people’s belief and support in their government. With neither the U.S. nor Baghdad making an issue out of corruption, it is unlikely to be curtailed any time soon.

For more on corruption see:

Iraqi Corruption

SOURCES

Badkhen, Anna, “Up to Half of Iraqi Adults Unemployed,” Truthdig.com, 8/20/08

Cordesman, Anthony, “Conditions-Based U.S. Withdrawals from Iraq,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 8/22/08

Dagher, Sam, “Iraqis more secure, but few are finding jobs,” Christian Science Monitor, 7/29/08

Flahert, Anne, “Ex-officials: Bush admin. ignored Iraq corruption,” Associated Press, 5/13/08

Mehdi, Abbas, “An Inside View of the ‘Second Insurgency’: How Corruption and Waste Are Undermining the U.S. Missing in Iraq,” Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hearing, 9/22/08

Morgan, Benjamin, “Improved security sees Iraq open for business again,” Agence France Presse, 8/24/08

Rubin, Alissa, “Iraqi Trade Officials Ousted in Corruptoin Sweep,” New York Times, 9/24/08

Schoof, Renee, “Iraqi judge: Corruption undermines Iraq’s future,” McClatchy Newspapers, 10/4/07

Transparency International, “2008 Corruption Perceptions Index,” September, 2008

U.S. Embassy, “Review of Anticorruption Efforts in Iraq Working Draft,” 2007

Vennin, Loic, “Somalia, Myanmar, Iraq top corruption blacklist,” Agence France Presse, 9/26/07

Voices of Iraq, “Iraq among countries with highest levels of corruption – report,” 9/23/08

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