World and Nation

Al-Maliki Dismisses Fraud Monitors in Secret Moves

The government of Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki is systematically dismissing Iraqi oversight officials, who were installed to fight corruption in Iraqi ministries by order of the American occupation administration, which had hoped to bring Western standards of accountability to the notoriously opaque and graft-ridden bureaucracy here.

The dismissals, which were confirmed by senior Iraqi and American government officials on Sunday and Monday, came as estimates of official Iraqi corruption soared. One Iraqi former chief investigator recently testified before Congress that $13 billion in reconstruction funds from the United States had been lost to fraud, embezzlement, theft and waste by Iraqi government officials.

The moves have not been publicly announced by al-Maliki’s government, but word of them has begun to circulate through the layers of Iraqi bureaucracy as parliament prepares to vote on a long-awaited security agreement.

That pact sets the terms for continued American presence here after the U.N. mandate expires Dec. 31, but also amounts to a framework for a steady reduction in that presence. Such a change will undoubtedly lessen American oversight of Iraqi institutions.

While some Iraqi officials defended the dismissals, saying there had been no political motivation, others pointed to the secrecy involved as supporting their view that those removed had lost their posts without good cause.

Each of Iraq’s 30 Cabinet-level ministries has one inspector general. These oversight officials are supported by varying budgets and staffing.

Although some of the inspectors general have been notably quiet, others have investigated both current and former ministers and other senior officials vigorously, and the top echelons of Iraqi officialdom have found ample reason to fear them.