In 2013, most of Iraq’s provinces received new governments following elections. One of the first things many of the new administrations did was announce that the previous governorate councils walked away with millions of dollars in corrupt development deals. Over 200 of such cases were just discovered in Baghdad. The new governor blamed the theft for the lack of services in the province. The problem is the new officials are likely to be just as crooked as the old ones as stealing government funds is considered a privilege of holding office in Iraq.
In September, new Baghdad Governor Ali al-Tamimi announced that tens of millions of dollars had been stolen by the previous provincial government. The governor held a press conference saying major politicians and businessmen from the previous administration were involved. He said one project had $68 million taken, while another had $18 million missing, and included such notable landmarks as the Baghdad Airport. In total, the new provincial council turned over 211 cases to the anti-corruption Integrity Commission to investigate. He added that none of the projects surpassed a 5% completion rate, and was the reason why the capital lacked essential services. Baghdad is not the only new local government that has charged the old one with stealing tons of money. Governor Tamimi also has a vested interest in condemning the former council. Tamimi is from the Sadr Trend, while his predecessor was from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law. One of the themes that the Sadrists have been pushing in recent years is that they are against corruption. Moqtada al-Sadr has also become increasingly critical of the premier in anticipation of the 2014 national vote. The governor therefore is killing two birds with one stone by bringing up these cases. He can try to win over the public with his claim of clean government, while taking on Maliki at the same time. The real question is if anything substantive will come of it. Iraq is rated one of the most corrupt countries in the world. That’s because graft has become institutionalized as a means of ruling the country. Taking money is considered part of the compensation for taking a public job, and accepting bribes is how things get done. Therefore there is no push to follow through on any major corruption case. Since these ones allegedly involve powerful people nothing will come of them, and Governor Tamimi is just looking to score political points by making them public.
Baghdad’s news that millions were absconded with by the previous provincial government should come as no surprise. The administration before that probably stole as much as it could, the last one did the same, and the new one will too. This is the sad story of Iraq today. Since the country earns such huge sums of money from oil revenues officials believe they can take what they want. The result is dozens and dozens of projects that were either just started or only in the planning stages are now sitting dormant across Baghdad. This needs to be considered every time politicians announce some new project in any part of the country. There’s a good chance that they will result in nothing, because they are simply a scheme to steal money. Iraq has huge needs in terms of infrastructure and services after years of sanctions and war. Many of those will never be met because of the chronic corruption, which is more widespread today than it ever has been.
Dananer, “Baghdad: assignments of 2011 projects to the Integrity Commission,” 9/14/13
- “Governor of Baghdad reveals corruption in the work of the previous administration at 80 billion dinars,” 9/11/13
Radio Nawa, “Governor of Baghdad reveals theft of tons of billions in construction projects,” 9/10/13