By Navy Seaman William Selby
American Forces Press Service
April 18, 2008 - The State Department has issued a mandate to the Iraqi government's anticorruption office to address corruption from a consolidated front, said a U.S. military officer working with the Iraqi officials. "My primary purpose here is to assist the Iraqi government within the Iraqi security forces with developing and implementing an IG (inspector general) system that is robust and that incorporates inspections, audits and investigations," said U.S. Marine Col. Shelia Bryant-Tucker, inspector general, Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq.
"Our goal is to eliminate or decrease the instances of corruption, fraud, abuse of power, and to implement the rule of law," she said during a teleconference with online journalists and bloggers Apr. 17, 2008.
The inspector general system has been successful within Iraq's Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior largely because of the readily available mentors, she said.
Within the Ministry of Defense, she said, "inspectors are the eyes, ears and conscience of the (military) commanders. Their goal is to increase readiness, ensure that life support systems are functional and that people are getting paid, supply systems are adequate, and that allegations of human rights abuses are reported and investigated."
The Ministry of Interior, which consists of the Iraqi national, regional and special police forces, has a very comparable inspector system to the Ministry of Defense, she said.
"Within the Ministry of Interior, there's also an entity known as internal affairs, and that's a very stringent department," said Bryant-Tucker. "(Internal affairs') job is to weed out corrupt and militia membership within the police forces, and they've been pretty successful in doing that."
Bryant-Tucker emphasized the importance of training within both ministries.
"The (Ministry of Defense) is the training development center, in that it has specific IG curriculum and teaches basic IG courses, human rights, women's rights, investigation and inspections courses," she said. "They've also developed standards to specialize the military inspectors and to provide a baseline for which to measure effectiveness and readiness."
The ministries have also received training from diverse sources such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United Nations and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
While the Iraqi government has achieved a level of success so far, she said progress has been slow primarily because the inspector general system is a new product the Iraqi government is required to embrace and make part of their culture.
Bryant-Tucker also said that for the program to succeed, the Iraqi public must be informed that it is their right, their duty and their obligation to report corruption.
"From the Iraqi perspective, political corruption is really one of the paramount issues," she said.
Another challenge to overcome is the security situation in Iraq, she said.
"Several internal affairs personnel and (inspector generals) have either been killed or wounded while doing their jobs...in the course of investigations," Bryant-Tucker said. "It makes it very difficult to go out and do those things when your life is threatened."
"Ultimately, the Iraqi people, the ones that I have spoken to, the ones who come to work everyday and risk their lives just to get here, they want peace and they want stability and they want a place where they can raise their kids," she added.
(Navy Seaman William Selby works for the New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.)