By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
April 4, 2008 - Iraqis eager for stable government institutions consider corruption tantamount to terrorism, a U.S. inspector general in Iraq said today. To strengthen the rule of law, each of Iraq's 31 ministries has an independent IG element charged with sniffing out fraud, waste and abuses of power, Marine Col. Shelia Bryant-Tucker said during a conference call today.
"The people here want to see a more stable government, and they look at corruption as being equal to terrorism, and want to see it all end," said Bryant-Tucker, who serves as special advisor to the commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq.
The IG office is charged with developing a network that promotes an efficient and honest Iraqi government while stamping out corruption. In addition, the IG is tasked with an advisory role to external watchdog agencies.
An example of success, she said, occurred while IG members helped create policies and procedures at Iraq's Defense Ministry. In the process, the IG found ministry officials had paid wages to absentee Iraqi army soldiers or to falsified soldiers who didn't exist.
"We're developing systems that will identify and detect that and eliminate that particular weakness," Bryant-Tucker said.
Last year, IG mentored the internal affairs division of Iraq's Interior Ministry as it conducted a sweeping corruption investigation of some 7,000 security forces. As a result, the ministry fired or disciplined almost 1,600 members, including 40 major generals and brigadier generals, and nearly 120 lieutenant colonels.
The role of the IG office was codified by a Coalition Provisional Authority order signed in early 2004. It empowers the IG to ensure "integrity, transparency and efficiency" and provide broad oversight in ministry operations and policies.
"This order establishes an effective program of audit, investigation and performance review to provide increased accountability, integrity and oversight of the ministries and to prevent, deter and indentify waste, fraud, abuse of authority and illegal acts," reads CPA Order Number 57, signed by CPA administrator L. Paul Bremer.
The order may be replaced by an Iraqi order that further clarifies the IG's role, Bryant-Tucker said. She added that the IG office is a member a working group that includes members from the U.S. Department of State.
The colonel said IG reforms in Iraq have been more successful within the military than in the civilian sector and conceded that progress is occurring more slowly than anticipated. But she expressed hope for the future of the oversight efforts.
"The concept that corruption is unacceptable has been embraced by the government of Iraq," she said.
Indicators of Iraqi interest in the clean-up push include an anti-corruption conference in January sponsored by the Iraqi government. The meeting outlined steps on implementing the rule of law and reducing illegal behavior by government workers.
In addition, Iraq recently took the first step toward enacting a United Nations resolution to solidify the country's stance against corruption, and a U.N.-sponsored convention last month was well attended by Iraqi officials, Bryant-Tucker said.
"It's an interesting and challenging opportunity here to work with the Iraqis, especially the workers, who really do want to see change," she said.