At the end of January 2019 Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi announced his new anti-graft campaign. That focused around a new Supreme Anti-Corruption Council. Every Iraqi administration since 2005 has said that it would stand up to theft and stealing, but they have done little to actually combat it. Mahdi’s effort is likely to go the same way.
PM Mahdi signed an order to initiate the new Anti-Corruption Council. It is to speed up the legal process to fight corruption, invite the parliament and cabinet to discuss anti-graft measures, make officials disclose their finances, get the ministries and commissions to develop plans to monitor their programs and policies, make sure the government complies with the Integrity Commission and the Board of Supreme Audit and get those two bodies to cooperate, speed up work on the National Index of Integrity, create a national anti-corruption strategy, set up offices in each province to coordinate anti-theft agencies, and other duties. Iraq currently has three anti-corruption groups: the Integrity Commission, the Board of Supreme Audit and inspector generals in the ministries. It appears that the new Council will try to coordinate these different organizations, while trying to get the rest of the government to comply. The problem is almost all of these initiatives have been voiced by previous administrations with little to show for it.
The previous government of PM Haidar Abadi also said it was fighting corruption, but took little substantive action. The former head of the Integrity Commission Hassan al-Yasiri for example said that he led 48 investigations into the ministry under Abadi and none were accepted by the courts for lack of evidence. He believed the legal system was part of the problem because it was corrupt. The Commission submitted 20 bills to parliament and the cabinet to amend old laws and regulations to combat corruption, and submitted a plan to fight graft in 2017, but none of them went anywhere. He pointed to the lack of political will as the cause of the lack of progress. As a result, he resigned in 2018. The current head of the Commission Izzat Tawfiq Jaafar said things were no better. He told the media that his office was working in an insecure environment because of the political pressure on it to stop its work. Other former Commission leaders have voiced similar difficulties in doing their job and how deep corruption runs in the Iraqi government. It’s for these reasons that many see Mahdi’s new Council as just the latest lip service to fighting this problem, which will probably have just as much success as all the other attempts.
Abu Zeed, Adnan, “Iraq activates Supreme Anti-Corruption Council,” Al Monitor, 1/28/19
Al Maalomah, “Prime Minister clarifies order to form the Supreme Council for Combating Corruption,” 1/29/19
Al Mada, “Hassan Yasiri: We achieved 48 corruption charges against ministries…The judiciary was not convinced by the evidence,” 9/15/18