Iraq replaces nine grain board officials in reform push

The ministry did not name the department and silo managers or accuse them of graft

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Iraq’s acting trade minister replaced nine officials at the country’s powerful grain board in a bid to push through anti-corruption reforms ordered by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a statement said on Monday.

The ministry did not name the department and silo managers or accuse them of graft, but said the changes were made “to appoint competent professionals ... and exclude elements that were not able to succeed in their past responsibilities.”

The grain board is responsible for procuring grain internationally and from Iraqi farmers, making it one of the world’s biggest importers of wheat and rice. Any disarray there would raise concerns over the country’s ability to secure strategic commodities.

The move comes two weeks after the minister sacked the head of the grain board and several other officials over graft allegations. A month ago, authorities issued an arrest warrant for then Trade Minister Milas Mohamed Abdul Kareem following a corruption investigation.

The sweeps also focus attention on Abadi’s attempts to push through reforms announced in August after nationwide protests erupted over corruption, poor electricity and water services and unemployment.

Abadi’s measures, aimed at dismantling a patronage system and rooting out incompetence that has undermined Baghdad’s battle against ISIS, have faced resistance in recent weeks from parliament and powerful forces within his own party.

Several trade ministry officials have faced corruption allegations in the past, and four ministry security guards are being prosecuted for allegedly killing a ministry media adviser in September with a bomb attached to his car.

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