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Why the Iraqi government is weak in facing corruption

Adnan Hussein

Published: Updated:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi insists that Iraq has defeated terrorism, including ISIS and other militia. However, this is still wishful thinking as the developments of the past few weeks have clearly demonstrated.

Of course, Abadi wants to have a strong ace up his sleeve before the parliamentary elections. But Abadi is probably overlooking the fact that he can hold an even stronger card with him now as the importance of combating terrorism has waned from public attention. Abadi has pledged several times that after ending the war against ISIS, his next sacred battle will be against administrative and financial corruption.

Why doesn’t Abadi put this issue of smuggled funds aside and focus on preventing the ongoing theft? This will not happen until he and the government threaten to take action and until corrupt people see these serious and decisive efforts

Adnan Hussein

Inaction and hesitation

We have only heard statements to this effect and are yet to see any action on this front. It’s clear that there’s hesitation to take the required measures to limit corruption.

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Corrupt people are not intimidated in any way because the government is still lenient towards those who have appropriated public funds and moved them outside Iraq in the past few years, and those who are currently embezzling public funds.

A few days ago, member of Parliament Furat al-Tamimi, who represents the Diyala Governorate in parliament, said smuggling merchandise and not paying custom fees cost the treasury $1 million a day.

Tamimi explained that smuggling is carried out by manipulating large amounts of products at border crossings to pay less custom fees or by transferring merchandise without paying fees altogether at al-Safra customs checkpoint on the Kirkuk-Baghdad road.

Widespread corruption

The MP did not exclude the possibility that “some security officials are complicit in these smuggling operations.”

A few weeks ago, it was reported that the smuggling of oil from Basra and other southern governorates is ongoing. There are plenty of other examples on corruption in Diyala, Basra and other governorates.

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To justify this slow process towards combating corruption and recovering the funds stolen during the rule of previous governments, Abadi claims that the issue is “complicated” and that stolen funds have been smuggled outside Iraq and it’s not easy to recover them.

Why doesn’t Abadi put this issue of smuggled funds aside and focus on preventing the ongoing theft? This will not happen until he and the government threaten to take action and until corrupt people see these serious and decisive efforts making life difficult for them.

All we hear is the old official refrain from fighting corruption. We are sick of these statements which do not intimidate corrupt people who rather find them laughable!

This article is also available in Arabic.
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Adnan Hussein is the executive editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper and head of the National Union of Iraqi journalists. Previously, he has held the position of Managing Editor in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets under the handle @adnanhussein.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.