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02 Sep 2013

Iraq’s post-2003 history and development is often presented by two faces. On one hand the oil rich country receives almost 95% of its revenue from petroleum, foreign investment is mushrooming in Kurdistan and within the governorates, and elections are taking place. On the other hand, democratic change is hindered by many challenges, which include wars in surrounding countries, internal violence, human rights violations, and others. While these challenges are ostensibly the state’s responsibility due to its responsibility to maintain domestic security, uphold the law, and ensure due process, the problem of corruption appears to be more subtle and entrenched throughout almost all strata of Iraqi society.

A recent report released by UNDP titled Corruption and Integrity in Iraq’s Public Sector reveals the extent to which corruption is a part of everyday life in Iraq. A few key findings of the report suggest that almost 60% of civil servants have been offered bribes, bribery prevails across Iraq but varies regionally (Baghdad: 29.3%, other governorates: 10.2%, Kurdistan Region: 3.7%), and that 66.3% of all civil servants would not feel adequately protected if they were to report an act of corruption in their own ministry.[1] [2] These findings not only illustrate the prevalence of bribery and corruption and that it is centered in the administrative capital of the country, but also that there is little being done to protect those who speak out or practice anti-corruption policies.

The report also explicitly states that “misconduct at all levelsis regularly reported in the media or directly experienced by citizens themselves in the interactions with public officials.” Therefore, corruption is not only acknowledged privately but also publicly, and by default condoned by those who fail to stand up against it in the media or in the political public.

It should be noted, however, that a problem arises when one juxtaposes an official definition of corruption and a patronage system such as wasta. A modern bureaucracy is likely to experience some corruption, but when the state must reconcile and define what falls under corruption and what falls under a deeper set of practices in Iraq’s then it becomes difficult to legislate these practices.

Nevertheless, legislation is not enough. The Commission of Integrity (CoI) investigates corruption cases and works to advocate for honest practice but the main issue is impetus. As stated above, there is a lack of public encouragement for whistleblowing, as well as protection for whistleblowers. Until the Iraqi government and administration legislate and enforce better practices publicly and privately, while encouraging whistleblowing, corruption in Iraq will continue. Furthermore, whistleblowers should organize to create independent anti-corruption organizations in order to raise awareness and place pressure on the government.