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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 August 2018

Baghdad dismisses Electricity Ministry officials

Iraq issued the arrest of hundreds of key officials in Abadi's corruption probe 

An Iraqi man checks an electric generator supplying homes with electricity in a Baghdad neighbourhood in the Iraqi capital.  AFP 
An Iraqi man checks an electric generator supplying homes with electricity in a Baghdad neighbourhood in the Iraqi capital.  AFP 

Iraqi Prime Minister dismissed senior officials in key departments of the electricity ministry following widespread protests over a nationwide power crisis.

Haider Al Abadi said on Thursday that his administration is undertaking reforms by sacking the heads of the investments, contracts, legal and electricity distribution departments at the ministry.

Although billions of dollars have been pumped into government departments since the fall of former dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, many Iraqi cities and towns never recovered and still suffer from poor infrastructure, severe power cuts, rolling blackouts and shortages of clean water as well as high unemployment.

The issues triggered last month's demonstrations in Iraqi's southern region, mainly in the energy-rich province of Basra.

Many Iraqis believe they live in the world's most corrupt country, while Transparency International placed it 169 of 180 on its Corruption Perceptions Index last year - with the lowest being the most corrupt.

On Tuesday, Mr Al Abadi announced a major probe into senior officials and ministers as part of a crackdown on abuse of public office - referring to fraud in government education contracts.

He directed the Integrity Commission, a government body tasked with fighting corruption, to investigate the accusations.

Baghdad's central government has completed the investigations of over a thousand corruption cases since Mr Al Abadi took office in 2014, the premier's spokesman said.

"We have issued the order for the arrest of 800 officials involved in corruption cases as well as demanding an additional 2,000 officials to appear in court," Saad Al Hadithi told The National.

Last month, Mr Al Abadi suspended his minister of electricity, Qassem Al Fahdawi – whose departure was demanded by protesters – "because of the deterioration in the electricity sector" and opened an investigation.

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Read more:

Corruption is the single biggest hindrance to progress

Over 5,000 cases target top Iraq officials in Abadi’s corruption purge

Iraq protests persist with government slow to offer solutions

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The Iraqi leader said the suspension of the minister would last until the investigation concludes.

Anger is mounting at a time when lawmakers are struggling to form a government after May's elections. The vote itself has been marred by allegations of fraud and voter irregularity that prompted a recount.

The United Nations special representative to Iraq, Jan Kubis, told the Security Council on Wednesday that a new Iraqi national government must prioritize a host of political, economic and social reforms as well as reconciliation and good governance, including fighting corruption.

Mr Kubis urged that the next government must also create jobs, put all armed groups "under the strict control of the state," and act against "insubordinate militias and criminal gangs."

May's elections, the fourth since Saddam was toppled, saw the lowest turnout in 15 years which Mr Kubis said already delivered "a strong message of dissatisfaction with the current state of management of public affairs."

The UN representative said the demonstrations in southern Iraq put a spotlight on the region's "massive and long-neglected social, economic and development needs"

Mr Al Abadi who is seeking a second term in office is currently heading a fragile caretaker government that will serve until a new government is formed.

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