By Mohammed Rwanduzy 26 minutes ago
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Close to $1.1 billion in stolen and misused public funds have been returned to state coffers in the first six months of 2019, Iraq’s Integrity Commission announced on Monday, as anti-corruption efforts remain a forefront issue in Iraqi politics.
The Integrity Commission report covers all of Iraq’s provinces except those of the Kurdistan Region, which has its own commission.
According to the anti-corruption watchdog, 1.3 trillion Iraqi dinars – approximately 1.1 billion US dollars – were returned to the state treasury between January and June 2019.
The Commission looked into 9,571 claims, court cases and news reports relating to corruption and public fund wasting. 1,939 suspects were referred to a trial court, including five unnamed ministers, while 100 “special degree” individuals and director generals were also referred.
There were 857 arrest warrants issued, 407 of which were carried out, added the report.
Of 838 court cases, 442 ended in conviction on corruption charges. Punishment handed down by the court included fines, and jail sentences of anywhere from three years to life.
There were 306 operations aiming to seize of funds that had been misappropriated through bribery, theft of public funds, extortion, and counterfeiting; 197 of these operations saw funds being retrieved.
Anti-corruption reform has been spoken of as a priority by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who established the Supreme Anti-Corruption Council in January in a bid to coordinate government, police and judiciary efforts to tackle corruption.
He had previously condemned Iraq’s endemic corruption while speaking in parliament, noting its presence in sectors as diverse as oil trade, the prison system, and healthcare.
After Iraq territorially defeated Islamic State (ISIS) in December 2017, political focus appeared to turn to anti-corruption reform, which took center stage in party campaigns for last year’s parliamentary election.
Misappropriation of funds has been a constant thorn in Iraq’s side, with billions of dollars earmarked for post-Iraq War reconstruction being lost to waste and corruption. Iraq is one of the world’s most corrupt nations, ranking 168th out of 180 countries in the Transparency International corruption perception index.
Established in 2004, the Integrity Commission, though an independent body, works under the oversight of the Iraqi parliament. It was responsible for bringing to light widespread corruption in Iraq’s Nineveh province in April, retrieving $64 million in lost funds.