Iraq to question trade minister over graft allegations
Iraq’s acting Trade Minister Salman al-Jumaili faces a questioning in the parliament over allegations of graft in his ministry, sources in the parliament have said.
Parliament member Alia Nassif said on Tuesday that Jumaili will attend a parliament session on August 3 to clarify ambiguities surrounding import deals for contaminated rice and licences for new mills among other issues.
The trade ministry did not comment on the issue. The ministry, which purchases strategic commodities, had previously faced graft accusations. Prosecutors issued a warrant for former trade minister Milas Mohammed Abdul Kareem after a probe suggested he and his brother had been involved in receiving bribes, illegal benefits and the misuse of his position.
Iraq, a country divided along the ethnic and sectarian lines, suffers from powerful patronage networks and chronic corruption in the government. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has repeatedly promised to tackle the issue, although his efforts have been overshadowed by a massive war against militants and political disputes within the system
The allegations against the trade ministry come as it has been struggling to import grains for its food subsidy program. The ministry has introduced new payment and quality terms, effectively making traders disinterested in the ministry’s international tenders. In a bid to guarantee food security, the Iraqi government has also allowed the ministry to make direct purchases of wheat and rice, showing how it is struggling to encourage traders to contribute to the tender process.
Iraq is expected to import around one million tons of what this year to meet its domestic demand of more than 4.5 million tons. The production of rice is also expected to meet a third of domestic consumption.