The incoming government of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who completed his cabinet yesterday, has pledged to fight pervasive corruption among officials. The outgoing administration of Iyad Allawi was regarded as highly corrupt by Iraqis.
Officials say that some former ministers have left Iraq in the past few days because they fear they will be detained if they try to leave later. “I have heard that [the government] are considering preventing any minister of the former government leaving the country,” said Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister and veteran political leader. The new administration is able to do this under emergency legislation introduced by Mr Allawi.
The corruption relates to the awarding of contracts and jobs. Political parties treat the ministries they control as a source of patronage and funds. The collapse of civil order after the war in 2003 meant that until now there had been little fear of punishment.
Many ministers in Mr Allawi’s government spent so much of their time on foreign trips that it is difficult to identify precisely who will stay abroad for fear of investigation in Iraq. A diplomat in Baghdad said there was another reason for the sudden departures: “They feel they will not have enough protection. The insurgents will find it difficult to kill a serving minister, so they may see a former minister as an easier target.”
The new government will have to tackle corruption if it is to get the state machinery operating again. Two years after the US invasion, electricity blackouts in Baghdad are longer than under Saddam Hussein, fuel was in short supply over the winter and security is worse than ever. Although large sums have been spent on reconstruction, no cranes are visible in Baghdad.