Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Head of Iraqi Integrity Committee says Corruption Wasting Billions of Dollars | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- Hadi Al-Amiri, the head of the Iraqi National Assembly”s Integrity Committee and the Secretary General of Badr Organization, has confirmed recent rumors regarding the existence of administrative and financial corruption involving a number of military and ration-card contracts amongst others. Al-Amiri indicated that the amount that has not been accounted for totals several billion dollars. He called on the judiciary, the National Assembly, and the government to cooperate and conduct an investigation into the matter. He criticized the present government”s performance and supported the call for reaching an honor pact that bans the killing of Iraqis.

In a statement by Al-Amiri in light of some reports that highlight the disappearance of billions of dollars, particularly through armament contracts and others related to the items supplied by ration cards, Al-Amiri called on the judiciary to investigate these reports and said, &#34By reviewing these reports, it became evident that money has been squandered. For example, $1 billion contracts have been agreed with one small firm. It does not make sense that this small firm is the only party that can supply the required needs while others cannot.&#34 He added, &#34We carried out a serious follow up and presented a thorough report to sound alarm bells. The government, the National Assembly, and the judiciary must all cooperate to put an end to the existing administrative corruption.&#34

Al-Amiri also said, &#34The Defense Ministry contracts, which amount to over $2.3 billion, show no transparency and part of them has yet to be implemented. Based on the financial monitoring department”s evaluation of each contract separately, we call on the judiciary and the Integrity Committee to carry out a thorough investigation, because it has become very clear that money has been squandered. Concerning the ration cards, the trade minister delivered a speech in which he indicated that the individual”s ration-card food allowance costs $15, while the Integrity Committee says that this allowance costs between $15 and $19. Through an evaluation, we found that the individual”s ration-card average allowance costs between $5 and $7. Low quality materials are being supplied. Some contracts were concluded with some states at the expense of quality. This is in addition to the fact that some storerooms have caught fire and some goods are being exported outside the country before they even reach storerooms. Last year witnessed the exportation of 400 trucks of goods to Syria. These goods were part of the ration card-related supplies. Moreover, some goods have been stolen and others have passed their expiry date whilst in storage.&#34

Al-Amiri suggested canceling the ration cards and giving the citizens cash allowances for the same amount. He said, &#34Fear of the electoral process is delaying the cancellation of the ration cards. The best way is to cancel the ration cards and open the way for traders to compete freely and fairly in supplying high-quality goods and ensuring their availability to the citizens, who will then have a broad choice of materials. The state cannot become a wholesaler instead of the traders. The government-run system that Saddam Hussein had created must be left behind, just as many other states have done. This is because we live in a time of privatization and we must not fear the rise in prices as long as there is competition. We have some successful projects involving the providing of cement, chicken and eggs by traders. As for electrical appliances, their price in Iraq is a lot less than that of neighboring states and they are also being supplied by traders. We must be frank and tell the people that the government cannot keep supplying the materials listed on ration cards forever, due to issues that are concerned with the signing of contracts, storage, distribution, and other requirements.&#34

Al-Amiri criticized the present government”s performance and said, &#34The government”s performance is weak and unsatisfactory, particularly in the fields of services and security. As National Assembly members, we must follow up the government”s work and put pressure on it, because the people deserve a lot more from us.&#34 He added, &#34Every rational person should not consider asking the government to resign at this particular time. We are on the verge of implementing our opinion poll and any changes in the government means a change in the date of elections and the political process. If weaknesses exist, we must eliminate them through cooperation between the executive, legislative, and judicial authorities, so as to pull the country out of the predicament in which it has been placed.&#34

Concerning the recent call for reaching a pact of honor that bans the killing of Iraqis, the Badr Organization secretary general said, &#34In principle, this pact is good if it is agreed on by the noble people Iraq, including Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and Turkomans, in an aim to ban the spilling of Iraqi blood. The pact will be a step in opposition to terrorism and through which we can establish a wide base against terrorism.&#34 Al-Amiri defended the plan that calls for the establishment of a federal state in southern Iraq. He said, &#34Federalism does not mean dividing Iraq. If this is not the case, then we all, Shiites and Sunnis, must take a stand against the Kurdish federalism. However, if it is acceptable for the Kurds to establish a federal state and enjoy authority while a federal state in the south is regarded as division, then this will be a way of seizing rights and freedoms.&#34