MESOP : LATE ? OR TOO LATE ? – Massoud Barzani says reforms & corruption probe are on track in Iraqi Kurdistan

SOUTH KURDISTAN (IRAQ) – RUDAW – 10 June 2016 – HEWLÊR-Erbil, Kurdistan region ‘Iraq’,— Fundamental reforms promised earlier this year to overcome Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s economic crisis are on the right track and 93 corruption cases have been documented to the public prosecutor and commission of integrity, Massoud Barzani announced on Thursday.

“Over the past three months – within the framework of the reform plan announcement and the combat of corruption – 93 cases have been filed to the [Kurdistan Region’s Commission of Integrity] and the public prosecutor. Now, they are working on them. Investigations and necessary measures have begun. Some of these cases have been transferred to the court,” said Barzani in a statement issued on Thursday detailing the government’s actions to date on promised reforms and efforts to rout corruption.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has issued 40 important decrees aimed at increasing transparency, reducing expenses, and improving incomes, Barzani explained.

“Within the framework of the reform and transparency process to reduce [public] expenses and increase revenues, the KRG has issued 40 resolutions. A large number of these decrees are particular to transparency and to reorganizing the oil sector,” said Barzani. “Therefore, we found it important to let the Kurdistan people see the results of the resolutions. We made grassroots reforms within the ministry of oil and natural resources.”

Barzani called on the KRG ministries to help provide data and information to KRG’s financial monitoring office for increased transparency.

“On April 17, 2016, we issued resolution No. 4 through which all the Region’s institutions and corporations should open their doors to the KRG’s financial monitoring office and give it necessary data and information, specifically those related to oil revenues and transparency throughout all sectors,” he added.

He further explained: “In the past we held a number of meetings with the judicial council, the commission of integrity, the general prosecutor, and the [KRG’s] financial monitor. We gave them all the support to make the process successful.”

Barzani has been accused by critics of amassing huge wealth for his family instead of serving the population. Barzani’s son is the Kurdistan region’s intelligence chief and his nephew Nechirvan Barzani is the prime minister. Kurdistan’s ruling Barzani family controls a large number of commercial enterprises in Iraqi Kurdistan, with a gross value of several billion US dollars.

According to analysts one of the most sensitive subjects is the Barzanis’ involvement in the economy of the oil-rich oil Kurdish region. Barzani family has long been the dominant force in Kurdish politics, holding various top positions in the regional government.Many Kurdish politicians and observers believe that many of the oil industry projects in Iraqi Kurdistan are conducted in a non-transparent way. Some have even described them as secretive. According to Iraqi and industry officials familiar with the account, more Kurdish oil is exported through the Ceyhan terminal than the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) declares.

The Kurdish opposition politicians say billions of dollars are missing from oil export revenue. Kurdish MP Ali Hama Salih said last April $1.107 billion from Iraqi Kurdistan oil revenue missing in 1st Quarter of 2016. Barzani also said that reforms will include the Ministry of Peshmerga too. “A committee has been formed to make reforms within the Peshmerga ministry, too.” Barzani also stressed that in relation to transgressions over public properties, a separate committee has been formed to follow up on cases and serious legal measures would be taken in that regard, as well.

On the issues of medicine, investments, oil and the banks, necessary measures have been taken to institute reforms and combat corruption in these significant sectors. “In the near future the people of Kurdistan will see the results,” read Barzani’s statement.

“What is left to be mentioned is that the combat of corruption should be nationwide, should have no geographical limits and include all the institutions in the Region,” the statement continued. Barzani warned that “reform plans should in no way be involved with political rivalries and every party should view this matter independent from political interests.”

Barzani assured the people of Kurdistan “that nobody has immunity in this process as it includes all sectors and institutions and there will be no barrier to deter state institutions from implementing reform programs and plans and combating corruption. These steps are ongoing but need patience and all the parties’ cooperation.”

Barzani thanked the World Bank, the United Nations and other associated parties who have been helpful in formulating this plan. After Barzani declared the first of the reforms on April 10 this year, a number of KRG officials involved in corruption were arrested.

Kurdish security forces detained a number of officials accused of corruption, misuse of power and mismanagement of public funds in the city of Duhok on April 26, but they were released on bail a day later.

Until now no one has been sentenced over corruption in Iraqi Kurdistan. On April 13, the head of the Kurdistan Region’s Central Bank, Adham Karim, and his deputy were arrested also on charges of corruption. Karim was taken into custody as part of a probe into an alleged illegal bond trading scheme that may have cost the cash-strapped government more than one billion dollars.

At the end of his statement Barzani reiterated that “Despite the fact that focusing more on the private sector, the banking system, dependence on oil revenues, providing job opportunities and lifting the burden on the destitute people of Kurdistan are magnificent and sacred aims, what more matters is the implementation of this reform plan. For this purpose, we dedicate our full support to it. With serious will, we will achieve it. All the government institutions have to precisely implement the road map. The political parties, civil organizations, and media must observe this road map. In the meantime, the government should, from phase to phase, publish the results of the road map for the public to see and offer their opinion.”