The head of Iraq’s main anti-corruption agency, Judge Rahim al-Ogaili of the Integrity Commission resigned on September 9, 2011. He said that the government was not committed to fighting graft and fraud, and that the country’s political parties were constantly interfering in his work. A new report by the International Crisis Group shed new light on why Ogaili stepped down. Apparently the Integrity Commission and other agencies discovered a series of front companies run by leading politicians that would routinely win government contracts, but not complete their work. When Ogaili tried to prosecute them, the authorities stepped in and blocked each case. This frustrating experience might have been the last straw for the Integrity Commission head, and led to him quitting.
The Integrity Commission, the Board of Supreme Audit, and several inspector generals from Iraqi ministries were working on a major investigation before Ogaili resigned. Each ministry has an inspector general (IG), which was created by the Coalition Provisional Authority. Some IGs told the Integrity Commission that they had uncovered a series of front companies created by political parties that were registered in other countries. Some foreign governments also warned the Commission about them. When Baghdad offered contracts these front companies would often win them in no bid contests. They would work with no oversight, which would allow them to collect their money, without finishing the job. The Board of Supreme Audit became involved because it is in charge of checking the government’s finances. Together, these organizations compiled a list of the front companies, and began to look into how they were connected to politicians. The Commission then moved on some of the cases, but was blocked each time by the government. The International Crisis Group claimed this was the main reason why Judge Ogaili ended up quitting. Discovering these front companies was a major find because they were defrauding the government in major contracts. The fact that they were connected to leading politicians was icing on the cake. This is exactly the type of work the Integrity Commission was created for. The reality however, is that in the new Iraq those same leading officials never allow any of their illegal activities to be exposed. No high-ranking official has ever been prosecuted and successfully convicted in the six years since the country got its sovereignty back.
Judge Ogaili complained about the Iraqi elite stopping him from doing his job. That was shown in the front companies case where massive fraud was found in government contracting, but the country’s political parties blocked his investigations. The Integrity Commission chief should have known that with such a sensitive matter he could only go so far. The lack of progress on any major case in the four years since he’s been in office got to be too much, and Judge Ogaili finally resigned. There were reports that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was pushing for his removal as well to replace him with someone from his own party who would be more compliant. With that lack of support from the top, and his inability to follow through with any prominent prosecutions finally took its toll, and Judge Ogaili stepped down. The Iraqi government is simply not interested in fighting corruption at this time. There is too much money to be had from defrauding the government for the politicians to stop it. That means no oversight group like the Integrity Commission has a chance to effectively carry out its duties, and that’s why it no longer has a chairman.
Aswat al-Iraq, “Iraq’s Integrity Commission demands Prime Minister to reject resignations of its Chairman,” 9/10/11
International Crisis Group, “Failing Oversight Iraq’s Unchecked Government,” 9/26/11