Iraqi parliament ends trade minister’s grilling over alleged corruption
The Iraqi Parliament has decided to end its questioning of acting Trade Minister Salman al-Jumali over corruption in relation to a deal to import rice from India.
Kawa Mohammed, a member of parliament who attended the Tuesday session, said the minister had technically secured a vote of confidence after 104 lawmakers voted that they were convinced by his answers to questions about the 2016 rice deal.
Other sources in parliament said the vote meant there was no further questioning of Jumali and he could keep his portfolio in the Iraqi cabinet.
Jumali denied the corruption allegations leveled against him when responding to lawmaker Alia Nussayif’s questions. He said that the Trade Ministry had last year rejected 4,000 tonnes of bug-infected rice from a 40,000-tonne Indian cargo and that the other side of the deal had returned the fund.
Iraq’s Trade Ministry has been repeatedly scrutinized for massive deals related to the import of strategic commodities. Jumali and other senior officials of the Trade Ministry have been facing graft accusations linked to grain import deals.
Iraq suffers from 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 terrorism and political disputes within the system.
The allegation against Jumali comes amid regulations on payment and quality that effectively keep Iraqi traders away from international tenders.
The cabinet authorized the Trade Ministry in May to make direct purchases of wheat and rice, a move meant to guarantee food security but seen by many as a bid to create more interest in tender process.
Iraq is expected to import around one million tonnes of rice this year to meet its domestic demand of more than 4.5 million tonnes. The production of rice is also expected to meet a third of domestic consumption.