UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
IRAQ: International Compact targets corruption
BAGHDAD, 2 Aug 2006 (IRIN) - Iraq has joined forces with the United Nations and the World Bank to tackle corruption and to boost economic development.
“Corruption has become part of the country’s reality, even with our hard work to tackle this issue,” said Supreme Court Judge Radhi al-Radhi, head of the Commission on Public Integrity (CPI). “This [agreement] will help to bring order to the Iraqi government even faster.”
The International Compact, launched 27 July, was initiated by the Iraqi government to gain assistance from the international community in carrying out its development plans.
The government has set goals to address corruption, create a transparent and efficient oil sector, develop a solid budgetary framework, improve governance and rule of law, and build or consolidate effective ministries and reconstruction agencies.
“Work is ongoing in Baghdad with the government, UN, and World Bank to try to develop a detailed work plan, how to go from point A to point B,” said Jean-Marie Fakhouri, the UN’s deputy special representative of the secretary-general for Iraq, and humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator.
The detailed plans are expected by the end of 2006.
Tackling corruption is a high priority as it is essential in advancing economic development, Iraqi officials said.
“Corruption has been one of the most terrible characteristics of the Iraq government,” said Ahmed Jaboury, public information officer in the Ministry of Finance. “Every person who has power in his hands is more concerned with filling his pockets than using his knowledge to improve the country’s condition.
“When you have a respectable commission that will focus on tackling corruption, more money will actually be invested rather than disappearing.”
Al-Radhi believes that the International Compact will boost his commission’s work.
“We have found hundreds of cases of corruption, but few of them have so far had their final verdict [in court],” al-Radhi said. “But with the commission helping us, our job will be easier. The new committee will have experience on such issues. They will help find where the problems are, which are not few but hundreds.”
Haydar Muthana, a trading company owner, offered one example of how corruption affects economic development.
“Six months ago I started to work on the papers to make my company legal,” Muthana said. “Over three months I paid US $3,000 in bribes to government officials, who made things difficult for me unless I paid what they wanted.
“Corruption is not something that is behind a shadow in Iraq, but it is clear and spoken of in front of everyone. They [officials] just say that even with the right papers and documents we have to give them a good ‘coffee’ [slang for bribe] to make them happy when signing the papers.
“It is a shame for Iraq, because corruption was common during Saddam’s time and now it is no different. Instead, it has become easier to get bribes,” he said.
This type of corruption has even greater repercussions in large infrastructure projects, such as water facilities, power plants and roads.
“In the capital, we have less than five hours of electricity a day, and the water quality is getting worse each day because the infrastructure is deteriorating,” said Sinan Barou’u, a resident of a suburb in the capital, Baghdad. “And it is the Iraqi population who suffers because the money that was supposed to be used for infrastructure has just disappeared.”
Al-Radhi said that nearly half of all funds designated for the reconstruction of Iraq have disappeared. Although his group has the authority to investigate corruption, they have not enough members to take on a problem so large.
“Many times you feel stuck when the corruption is inside the offices of very important government members. But with the compact, this reality can change,” al-Radhi said. “It will be more difficult to stop the commission’s work because it has more power behind it.”
The launching of the International Compact may also speed up the reconstruction of a nation shaken by three years of occupation by multinational forces.
“With help from international organisations, the Iraqi government can create a sustainable economy more quickly and the country can better reintegrate with its neighbours,” said Barak Ibrahim, a political analyst and professor at Mustansiryiah University.
According to Ibrahim, corruption can be tackled despite the unstable security situation. Improving economic conditions will decrease violence in Iraq, he said.
“As soon as economic stabilisation has been achieved, more employment will be generated, and more people will rise above poverty and stop looking to insurgency as a way to support their families,” Ibrahim said. “This is what will bring peace and security back to Iraq.”
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