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Corruption Still Major Problem In Iraq Finds IG

It pays to learn from the best in the business.
by Pamela Hess
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Washington (UPI) May 03, 2006
Corruption of government officials remains a major problem in Iraq, according to a series of reports from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. SIGIR has identified major challenges for the U.S. and Iraqi governments to tackle in the coming year as the reconstruction effort is handed off to Baghdad.

The Commission on Public Integrity has more than 900 cases ready to prosecute -- many against officials in the oil, defense and education ministries -- but just 50 are pending in court. Judges are being threatened not to take up the cases, Stuart W. Bowen, the special inspector general, told United Press International in an interview last week.

In March, SIGIR conducted a sting operation that has resulted in the arrest of a naturalized American citizen employed by the Titan Corp. who served as a translator for the U.S. government in Baghdad.

A high-ranking Iraqi interior minister introduced Faheem Mouse Abdel Salam, the translator, to an Iraqi in charge of procuring police equipment and suggested the two could have a profitable business arrangement, according to an affidavit filed in the case in March.

Salam offered the Iraqi a bribe of $60,000 if Salam was awarded a $1 million contract to provide a printer and 9,000 armored vests. The Iraqi reported this to the special inspector general, and an undercover SIGIR agent took over the case; Salam subsequently tried to bribe him as well.

SIGIR has identified major challenges for the U.S. and Iraqi governments to tackle in the coming year as the reconstruction effort is handed off to Baghdad; no more American money will be forthcoming for major new projects.

Bowen's report also emphasizes the need to get the international community involved financially and politically in Iraq. Foreign countries have donated just $3 billion to Iraq's reconstruction, with $10 billion more promised -- and most of that is in the form of loans.

"The World Bank, the European Union need to step forward and help Iraq enter the next phase," Bowen said. "The world has a collective interest in Iraq."

However, Bowen's report also highlights relatively bright spots. It says that Kurdish and Shiite areas in the north and south, not subject to the daily insurgent attacks on key nodes that plague the Sunni center, are "in a state of gradual recovery."

But Iraq remains extremely dangerous for those working reconstruction projects: At least 516 contractors working for the U.S. government have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Most are not American: of the 68 death claims filed for contractors in the first quarter of 2006, 17 were Americans and 49 were from other countries.

The threats range from small-arms fire and mortar attacks to improvised explosive devices. Most attacks occur while they are transiting to or from reconstruction sites.

The reports also note that there is massive organized theft and smuggling of Iraqi oil that further degrades the economy. No one knows exactly how much oil is smuggled out of the country because the pipelines are not metered.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
news reports about Iraq - a special report

IG Outlines Challenges In Iraq In 2006
Washington (UPI) May 02, 2006
The United States only has $2 billion left to spend on Iraq reconstruction, but a significant amount of work remains before the oil, electricity, water and public health systems can function on their own, according to a series of new reports from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

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