Friday, December 3, 2010

Investigating Corruption Still Limited In Iraq

The Commission on Public Integrity, the main anti-corruption agency in the Iraqi government, released a report on its work for the first half of 2010. While the number of investigations, arrest warrants, and convictions continues to go up, the body still faces opposition from high officials, legal difficulties, and focuses upon low level incidents.

The Integrity Commission is dealing with more and more cases each year. In the first six months of 2010 the Commission received 3,901 allegations of corruption. They were also working on 4,004 claims and 3,921 other allegations. These investigations led to 2,360 arrest warrants, 52 of which were for director generals or above. One was also for the former Trade Minister Abdul al-Falah al-Sudani. Of those warrants, only 588 were actually carried out however, resulting in 762 people being detained, five of which were director generals or above. If that pace continued into the second half of the year the Commission would likely surpass its 2009 totals. In that year 3,710 arrest warrants were issued, leading to 1,719 people arrested. 

For the half, the Commission ended up sending 1,226 cases to court, leading to 982 convictions worth approximately $284 million. 1 person got life in prison, 78 got more than 5 years in prison, 18 got 3-5 years, 89 got less than 3 years, and 16 had to pay fines. The most common crimes involved were embezzlement, 40 convictions, forged documents, 31 convictions, stealing public money, 27 convictions, and misusing public money, 20 convictions. That compares to all of 2009 when only 889 cases were sent to court, with 257 convictions involving 296 people.

Arrest Warrants Issued/Number Detained By Integrity Commission 2008-2010
2008: 630 warrants/714 detained 
2009: 3,710 warrants/1,719 detained
1st Half 2010: 2,360 warrants/762 detained

Total Number of Cases Sent To Court By Integrity Commission 2004-2010
2004-2005: 26
2006: 296
2007: 140
2008: 382
2009: 889
1st Half 2010: 1,226

Total Number Of Convictions By Integrity Commission 2008-2010
2008: 97 
2009: 257
1st Half 2010: 982

High officials  and the Amnesty Law continued to interfere in the Commission’s work. Article 136(b) of the penal code allows ministers and other top official to stop investigations. That was used 95 times in the first six months of 2010 involving cases worth around $967,000. That was an increase from the previous year when it was only used in 28 cases involving 54 individuals. In 2008 136(b) was invoked 70 times, and 132 times in 2007. Of greater impact was the 2008 Amnesty Law, which was originally meant to help with reconciliation, but also absolves certain individuals from corruption. In 2008 1,552 cases had to be dropped because of the law, and 340 in 2009.

The Integrity Commission has also failed to bring any top administrator to justice since its creation in 2004. In 2010 the Commission lost its high profile case against the ex-Trade Minister Sudani, who had half of his charges dropped against him, which was subsequently upheld by a higher court in September. It’s believed that $4-$8 billion went missing while he was in office. There is still a second case pending against him, but it’s likely to end in a similar fashion.

Instead most of the Commission’s work is focused upon low level cases. In its 2009 end of the year review for example, it highlights some of its convictions. Those included an official at the Civil Bank of Iraq in Baghdad who was taking bribes, a forgery ring that involved officials at the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher Education, which was helping students into universities and government jobs who had not finished preparatory school, a woman at the University of Technology who was transferring students from foreign schools to Iraqi ones for bribes, an official at the Ministry of Culture who was demanding money to complete paperwork, and a ring that was forging papers to buy and sell cars illegally in Baghdad. In the 2009 and 2010 reports cases involving forged documents accounted for the second and first most convictions respectively. In the first half of 2010 the Commission issued 284 warrants for fake documents leading to 31 convictions. In 2009 there were 90 convictions involving forgeries. While these incidents document the day to day corruption that the average Iraqi has to face, none of them could be considered going to the core of the problem.

The Integrity Commission faces a daunting task carrying out its work in Iraq. The country has a deep culture of corruption that began under Saddam and has continued into the present day. Every sector of the economy and government appear to be involved. The fact that the leaders of the nation show no real support for the Commission’s effort, and instead actively interfere with their work, shows that it is fighting an uphill battle. Until that changes the Commission is likely to continue to work at the margins of corruption, while those with real power will be able to steal and abuse the system with impunity.

SOURCES

Commission of Integrity, “Annual report for 2008,” December 2009
- “CoI Key achievements and indicators from January 1, 2010 To June 30, 2010,” 7/28/10

Office of Investigations, “Commission of Integrity Annual Report for 2009,” Commission of Integrity, 2010

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/10

2 comments:

Hitat Hitat said...

Joel,

Some corrections and comments:
1. Article 136 (b) referred to is of the Law of Criminal Procedures No. 24 (1971) not the Constitution.
2. The Civil Bank is actually Rafidain Bank, a commercial, state – owned bank.
3. Absolving certain individuals from charges of corruption in accordance with the Law of Amnesty No. 19 (2008) actually violates the spirit of Article 73 of the Constitution stipulating that “The President of the Republic shall assume the following powers:
First: To issue a special pardon on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, except for anything concerning a private claim and for those who have been convicted of committing international crimes, terrorism, or financial and administrative corruption”. This article actually treats terrorism and financial and administrative corruption as equals.

Humam

Joel Wing said...

Humam,

Thank you for the comments and corrections.

"1. Article 136 (b) referred to is of the Law of Criminal Procedures No. 24 (1971) not the Constitution. "

That was my fault. I thought 136 was part of the constitution and didn't consult my notes close enough.

"2. The Civil Bank is actually Rafidain Bank, a commercial, state – owned bank. "

The English version of the Integrity Commission's report simply said "Civil Bank" so that's what I used as well.

"3. Absolving certain individuals from charges of corruption in accordance with the Law of Amnesty No. 19 (2008) actually violates the spirit of Article 73 of the Constitution"

Unfortunately since Iraq has weak institutions and a ruling class that is pretty corrupt itself, the law is often times what the powerful say it is and isn't. Until there is a commitment by the rulers to fight corruption things won't change.