AL-ASHARQ AL-AWSAT INTERVIEW
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has denied that his government misused the oil revenues, as a report by a UN committee claimed, and asserted that a ministerial council managed the oil policy and supervised the revenues during his rule. He added that the council consisted of several ministers, among them the present Vice President Adil Abd-al-Mahdi (from the Shiite Coalition) who was the finance minister.
Allawi said he has no knowledge of the report that was issued by the advisory supervision committee and said in a statement to "Asharq al-Awsat" by telephone from Baghdad yesterday: "I have not seen the report or heard of it."
The report prepared by the committee, which was formed in accordance with a Security Council resolution in 2003 after the downfall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, said the interim Iraqi Government (under Iyad Allawi) was as bad in misusing the Iraqi oil resources as the provisional occupation authority and the UN management of the "oil for food” program under Saddam”s regime.
The figures given by the committee for the first six months after the handover of authority to the Iraqis showed that the Iraqi Government made the same mistakes of misusing the oil revenues that the provisional occupation authority did. The audits carried out by the giant (KPMG) company for the Security Council”s committee uncovered the embezzlement of oil revenues from 26 June 2004, the date of the handover to the interim government, and the end of last December. Though the report did not make direct accusations of corruption, bribery, or misuse of oil revenues, it noted that the Iraqi ministries and the concerned US agencies granted contracts to companies without bids and with money from the development fund (oil revenues) that reached almost $100 million. The report added that a US agency bought armor-plated military cars for $980,000 from oil revenues that were supposed to be used for the development programs and recorded the Allawi Government’s breach of the Security Council resolution that asserted that Iraqi oil revenues should be used for development projects and cover the post-war stage. As an example, it said the government transferred a sum from the revenue of the oil exported to Syria to its own account instead of transferring it to the development fund in Iraq. The committee report hinted
that Iraqi oil continues to be smuggled illegally and recorded that almost 618,000 tons of oil were lost mysteriously and which were valued at $69 million, which is the value of oil sold between 26 June and the end of last year. The advisory committee”s latest discovery was that of the government”s oil marketing board (SOMO) depositing in an inappropriate way a sum of $97.8 million from oil revenues in three unapproved banks in Iraq and Jordan.
The report concluded that all the interim government’s accounts were
incomplete, the ministries were spending the oil revenues in an improper way and sometimes granted contracts from oil revenues in an unusual way, and even failed to follow up the projects they had financed to ensure their completion.
On his part, Allawi said: "My information about oil under my government is that there was a good and expert oil minister. A higher council for oil was formed and its members included the deputy prime minister, the finance minister, the oil minister, and the minister of state. They managed the oil policy. This council sold the oil and deposited its revenues in the Central Bank."
Allawi described the media campaign that is slandering some of his
government”s ministers as "inappropriate" and said: "Administrative
corruption has existed from the time of Saddam and under Bremer. The majority of ministers were involved in administrative corruption. I referred three ministers to investigations. But we did not beat drums in the media because the issue concerned the country and ministers” honor." Headded: "It is easy to make an accusation but it should be verified. We will wait and see
what happens if the accusation is proved. But it is shameful to talk about it in the press before it is proved. Accusing people at random was one of Saddam”s ways. He accused people at random and unfairly, accusing so and so of being an agent and so and so of being an embezzler. We should stay away from Saddam”s methods. If there are accusations against ministers, then they must be verified accurately before publishing them in the media."
Regarding the release of Ghazial-Ubaydi, the former Ba”thist official, Allawi said: "Al-Ubaydi was not in the Iraqi authorities” hands but detained by the US forces. I propose to those who have good relations with the Americans to ask them why did they release Al-Ubaydi before they start making haphazard accusations."
Commenting on the delay of Saddam Hussein’s trial, the former Iraqi prime minister said: "The reason for the delay is the scarcity of judges. Saddam will be tried. Who dares not to try him? The problem is the scarcity of judges. At my last cabinet meetings, I formed a committee under the deputy prime minister to follow up the issue of the judges, increase their salaries, and provide protection for them and their families so that they can concentrate their efforts not only on Saddam”s cases but on all cases."
He called the intensification of the recent terrorist
attacks "something normal and the result of repercussions that happened and are happening, most notably the disbanding of the army and the state’s institutions, the uprooting of the Ba”th, and others" and pointed out that he "opposes the policy of uprooting" and called for "turning it into alegal and judicial case."
Regarding his political programs, Allawi who leads the Accord Movement said:"I went on a personal Arab tour that had nothing to do with the government. I reached agreements with these countries concerning the Iraqi situation and the fight against terror and terrorists and submitted two messages to the brother president and the brother prime minister about the points discussed that serve Iraq and I hope that they will follow them up." He added: "We want to build the country and support the Iraqi citizen, whether we are in power or outside it. We point to the error when it happens and value what is right." He also said: Our next program is to prepare for the coming stage, prepare for the elections and constitution stage, and establish strong and solid alliances with several of the active political tendencies and parties in Iraq”s society, especially those ignore the sectarian and ethnic matters and emphasize Iraq”s national aspect. He added: "There is unfortunately sectarian tension between the Sunnis and Shiites and we hope that this tension will melt because it is disgraceful. There has always been national accord, since the 1920 revolution to this day. It is shameful to raise political issues today on doctrinal, ethnic, and sectarian bases because this marginalizes and weakens the Iraqi situation and is unfair to it."