Iraqi families gathered outside a food center in Baghdad. Photo: AP
By HEMIN BABARAHIM
BAGHDAD—An MP serving on Iraq’s Integrity Committee said financial corruption is estimated at around US$230 billion and that around 38,000 corruption cases have been filed so far.
Khalid Alwani told Rudaw that the volume of corruption in Iraq is “tremendous” and attributed the rampant corruption in Iraq to “the high volume of revenue… the lack of accountability and lack of monitoring by the courts.”
According to Iraqi lawmakers, sectors with the most corruption include electricity, weapons procurement, food and oil.
The committee’s figures show that 25,000 employees in Iraq have been involved in acts of corruption, among them 40 individuals in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s office.
“Corruption has reached all ministries, the presidency, Parliament and all corners of the country. It has become widespread,” Alwani said.
The committee revealed that investigations into nearly 17,000 cases of alleged corruption that involve up to US$190 billion are underway. According to the committee around more than 3,000 people are wanted for involvement in corruption, among them 77 general directors, high-ranking individuals, as well six ministers.
Arrest warrants have been issued for 1,439 suspects, among them 24 directors-general and one minister. But only 624 arrests have been made.
Mahma Khalil, a Kurdish member of the Iraqi parliament, said that corruption has long been prevalent in Iraq but never discussed due to the “dictatorial” nature of previous regimes.
“Democracy and the new system have brought about relative transparency. Therefore, the numbers are repeated over and over and the corrupt individuals are revealed,” said Khalil.
The Kurdish lawmaker also said the Iraqi parliament has failed to monitor and curtail corruption. However, he added that the government and the courts have done a good job in combating graft.
Transparency International ranks Iraq as the third most corrupt country in the world after Somalia and Myanmar.
An Iraqi lawmaker, Hassan Senid, recently told the media that 19,000 personnel on the Defense Ministry’s payroll exist only on paper. Parliament Speaker Usama al-Nujaifi, told Al-Jazeera last month the US cannot account for over $18 billion in funds for Iraq.
Alwani called on the courts to hold corrupt officials accountable “so that people will trust” the judiciary. He said recently arrest warrants have been issued for several high-ranking officials including a minister, but refused to divulge names.
One impediment to bringing corrupt officials to court is that some of those officials hold dual nationalities. Some former and current ministers accused of corruption are now living outside the country, making it difficult for the government to have them extradited.