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Corruption Engulfs Transport Ministry

Minister admits embezzlement, fraud and theft by government workers.
By Yaseen al-Rubai\'i

The transportation minister, Salam al-Maliki, has described how his office has sunk into a mire of corruption, causing the government to lose millions of dollars.

“Everything has been stolen in the ministry bar its name,” he told IWPR.

Fourteen director generals and the members of nine committees within the transport ministry are currently being investigated for graft. In one case, the ministry found that employees purchased an aircraft from a foreign company for 300 million US dollars, just over four times its true value, with staff suspected of pocketing the difference.

Al-Maliki confirmed that the ministry has formed 20 internal committees to investigate corruption and report the cases to the government’s Public Integrity Commission.

Other allegations against ministry employees include creating fake paperwork for the purchase of aircraft spare parts and stealing dozens of new trucks which are thought to have been sold abroad.

“We found out there was a large amount of money embezzled and there have been fake contracts tendered,” said al-Maliki.

Security chief at the ministry, Colonel Muhammed al-Maliki, cited a case in which an official stole 183 bed sheets and sold them for 2 million Iraqi dinars (1,365 dollars). The sheets were meant for police who were working as guards at the ministry. The officer also stole food supplies bought for the latter.

“We also found that people were taking unauthorised time off work,” said the colonel, “ and there were many names on our payroll of people who do not really exist.”

Ahmed Abdul-Kareem, a general manager at the ministry, said staff members sold commuter buses to local residents, who then dismantled the vehicles and hawked the parts. “If you roam the city of Baghdad, you’ll find the frames of these buses in rubbish dumps,” he said.

He added that fictitious contracts were signed to build waiting areas at train stations, which were worth tens of millions of dollars.

A guard told of how he paid a 300-dollar bribe to get his job, and that senior officers were now trying to intimidate him and his colleagues to resign so that their relatives can have the jobs. “They brought back the behavior of Saddam’s army,” he said.

A truck driver working for the ministry said it was hard to get well-paid jobs ferrying goods abroad because of the excessive bribes that have to be paid to members of staff. “We can’t get any work for journeys outside Iraq because they are only given in return for a big bribe, as much as 2,000 or 3,000 dollars,” he said.

Yaseen al-Rubai'I is an IWPR trainee in Baghdad.

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