Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Premier of Iraq Is Quietly Firing Fraud Monitors

Nice work.

The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is systematically dismissing Iraqi oversight officials, who were installed to fight corruption in Iraqi ministries by order of the American occupation administration, which had hoped to bring Western standards of accountability to the notoriously opaque and graft-ridden bureaucracy here.

So much for change.

The dismissals, which were confirmed by senior Iraqi and American government officials on Sunday and Monday, have come as estimates of official Iraqi corruption have soared. One Iraqi former chief investigator recently testified before Congress that $13 billion in reconstruction funds from the United States had been lost to fraud, embezzlement, theft and waste by Iraqi government officials.

Waste? Well, in that sense Iraq is becoming a modern society.

The moves have not been publicly announced by Mr. Maliki’s government, but word of them has begun to circulate through the layers of Iraqi bureaucracy as Parliament prepares to vote on a long-awaited security agreement. While some Iraqi officials defended the dismissals, saying there had been no political motivation, others pointed to the secrecy involved as supporting their view that those removed had lost their posts without good cause. Each of Iraq’s 30 cabinet-level ministries has one inspector general. These oversight officials are supported by varying budgets and staffing.

Secrecy is not a good sign.

In one case, investigations of a former electricity minister landed him in jail before he escaped and fled to the United States, and an Oil Ministry inspector general detailed extensive smuggling and extortion schemes that he said bedeviled the industry.

How curious that this former minister wound up in the US.

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