Corruption drains Iraq. What is its size and what is the government’s role in the fight against it? | Policy
The representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, said last week that the political and ruling class in Baghdad has so far failed to put the national interest above all else, and the statements of UN officials came before the UN Security Council at a regular meeting to discuss about the situation in Iraq.
And Blaskhart emphasized that “corruption is an essential feature of the political economy in Iraq, and it is a part of daily transactions, and I am not the one who is just saying that, so that it is recognized.” She also spoke of a dysfunctional, bloated government sector that serves politicians, not the people, and said: “Partisan and private interests are diverting resources from important investments in national development.”
Since 2003, Iraq has witnessed an unstable economic situation, especially with the reliance of more than 94% of its general budgets on oil sales, and although its budgets have witnessed a growing boom since the American invasion of the country, these billion budgets have not reflected positively on the general situation in the land.
Report (as delivered) of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq and Head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, @JeanineHennis at the 9145th meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the situation in relation #Iraqhttps://t.co/G74BvuPNLU
– UNAMI (@UNIIraq) October 4, 2022
Indicators of corruption
Iraq is ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world, as it ranked 157th globally among 180 countries in the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index published by Transparency International last year, which confirms that the country suffers from an aggravating problem, without the organization stating the exact figures for the scale of corruption in the country.
Iraqi officials do not deny the existence of rampant corruption in the country, as former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi revealed in September 2014 that about 50,000 employees and soldiers in the Iraqi Ministry of Defense received their salaries without being present at the Ministry of Defense. tlu, but in August In August 2015, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who was then the oil minister, revealed that Iraq’s budgets from 2003 to 2015 were $850 billion, and that corruption in Iraq had wasted $450 billion, adding that abuse of official positions for special interests cost the state 25 billion dollars.
In September 2021, the President of the Republic of Iraq, Barham Salih, revealed – in a televised interview – that Iraqi money coming from oil since 2003 is about a thousand billion dollars, noting that estimates show that the money looted from Iraq abroad is estimated at about 150 billion dollars, emphasizing that Iraq is working on its reconstruction, asking the world to form an international coalition to fight corruption and return looted funds.
Scales of corruption
Commenting on what the representative of the United Nations in Iraq said about political-economic corruption, Iraqi economist Mazhar Muhammad Salih says that all the words of Blaskhart are known to Iraqis, attributing economic-political corruption to the composition of a political system that relies on party quotas in the formation of governments.
Saleh added that the quotas adopted in the country require concessions from everyone in order to continue the political process, which causes huge costs for the country. Saleh gives an example of political and economic corruption in the country by obtaining diplomatic passports, of which, according to him, there were about 25,000.
Quotas squandered a fortune
Saleh confirmed in an interview with Al-Jazeera Net that the quotas have dissipated Iraqi wealth through the rentier nature of the state, which the structure of the system has caused to dissipate in recent years. He did not specify the extent of corruption in the country due to the diversity of corruption chapters, from direct financial corruption, bribery and theft to administrative corruption, which he said wastes money.
As for the professor of economics at the Iraqi University in Baghdad, Abd al-Rahman al-Mashhadani, he believes that there are no exact figures, but the economic equations reveal some truths, especially the corruption related to the smuggling of money abroad without the possibility of determining the extent of internal corruption that invests the money inside Iraq.
And about the volume of smuggled money, Al-Mashhadani told Al-Jazeera Net that Barham Salih’s statements about limiting smuggled money to 150 billion dollars are incorrect, stressing that he believes that the volume of smuggled money ranges between 350 and 600 billion dollars. dollars for the period from 2006 to 2018, and that in the following year many corruption files were recorded without the possibility of determining their size, bearing in mind that the auction of the sale of dollars in the Central Bank of Iraq is still ongoing, with accusations by government officials of smuggling hard currency from countries.
Al-Mashhadani details these numbers to confirm that they are the result of fictitious and backlogged projects, since the government spent funds for these projects without having them on the ground. He adds that in the period from 2006 to 2014, billions of dollars were spent on 6,000 projects that were not realized, because the state policy at that time was spending project costs at the time of signing the contract, without adopting the system of relative costs. advances given to contractors according to the percentage of completion of each project.
Al-Mashhadani enumerates 3 types of political-economic corruption, since some political blocs rely on economic offices imposed on the ministries affiliated to the blocs, and through these offices they deliberately get large percentages of the projects directed by the state.
As for the second type, according to al-Mashhadani, it is through ministry offices and general directors in ministries and government institutions, which makes all political blocs accused of involvement in corruption, just as all political blocs admit that corruption is widespread in the country. He concluded his speech by referring to the third type of political-economic corruption, which is money paid to political blocs in exchange for the appointment of ministers, general directors and high-ranking officials, in exchange for promises of obtaining state contracts, as he said.
For his part, Jamal Cougar, a member of the parliament’s Finance Committee, described what Plasschaert told the Security Council as “the tip of the iceberg”, noting that the extent of financial corruption in the country erodes all political party lines without exception, given that the current political conflict does not deviate from the attempt to control the country’s ability and the position of the government.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, Cougar compared corruption to a “cancer” that cannot be controlled, and asserted that the 2021 budget, which amounted to around $100 billion, had in no way reflected the economic situation, noting that is one of the most prominent aspects of political-economic corruption: the deliberate stopping of investments in natural and human resources, and that the stopping of these projects does not stop only at the interests of the parties, but also extends to the interests of the countries in the region.
Cougar goes on to question the reasons that have so far prevented the investment of gas associated with oil extraction operations, which burns in the air despite the country’s urgent need to invest it in electricity generation instead of importing it from other countries in the billions of dollars a year, except that they do not invest in the country’s two largest gas fields, namely Mansouriya in Diyala (east) and Akaz in Anbar (west).
At the end of his speech, Cougar wonders about the fate of the more than 3,000 schools that the Iraqi government allocated funds to establish in 2010, but after 12 years of that, only 300 of them have been realized.
Acknowledgment and attempted repair
The Iraqi government acknowledges the existence of corruption in its institutions, and a document on the resignation of Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Allawi last August revealed some of this, as it stated in its text, “The government has succeeded in developing a bold strategy for economic and administrative reform, however, the strategy did not achieve the effect.” What is required is to halt the decline in the administrative capabilities and efficiency of the public sector or to radically change the economic pillars of the country.”
He added: “The government has failed to control and then reduce corruption. Corruption is a multi-headed nemesis that has taken deep roots in the country over the past twenty years. It cannot be controlled, let alone eradicated, if there is no political will and consensus to do so. do, since there is no political will.” Corruption remains endemic, crippling and widespread.
Despite the bleak picture of the Iraqi situation, government institutions dealing with the fight against corruption continue to work and reveal the numbers they have achieved. A few months ago, the head of the National Investment Authority, Suha al-Najjar, revealed that more than 400,000 dunams of state land, which was reserved under the umbrella of fictitious and unfinished investment projects, had been returned, as she estimated – in an interview with the media. – the value of restored lands is about 62 billion dollars.
As for the Federal Integrity Commission, it announced in its 2021 annual report that more than 11,000 government officials were involved in corruption cases, including 54 ministers. The Commission (which is connected to the Parliament) added that they were all accused of corruption cases (the nature of which was not specified) and that the Commission had filed more than 15,000 reports against them.
The report of the competent authority concludes that the investigations resulted in 632 guilty verdicts, including one against the minister, and 42 verdicts against 23 persons with special evaluations, general directors and those in their ranks, and the investigation continues in other cases.
Since October 2019, anti-corruption dossiers have appeared at the forefront of the demands of demonstrations that have gripped Iraqi cities in a country where corruption is among the most widespread in the world.