Al-Maliki pursued corrupt contracts at Ministry of Communications – Former Minister

30/08/2012

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By Ma'ad Fayad

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London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Former Iraqi Minister of Communication, Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, has insisted that he did not resign but was sacked from his post by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki after objecting to the prime minister interfering in the operations of his Communications Ministry.

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Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat in London, the former Iraqi Communications Minister revealed that “this was the third message that I sent to the Iraqi Prime Minister regarding his personal interference in the affairs of the [Communications] Ministry, and this included firing high-level professional staff and replacing them with others who lack professionalism, without consulting with me or asking my opinion. There were many instances of political interferences, and I did not receive any answer from him for more than a year since sending the first message.”

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Allawi asserted that “he [al-Maliki] sought to get rid of the ministry cadre who were professional and efficient”, stressing that “one of the most important reasons was that he [al-Maliki] wanted the ministry to pass many corrupt contracts, however I, along with my managers, stopped many of these contracts.”

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He added “I sent a message to al-Maliki in which I clarified the problems and requested a meeting with the prime minister on three separate occasions. One time, he [al-Maliki] asked me to give him my cell phone number so that he could call me, but he never did.”

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He asked “Can you imagine a minister trying to meet with the prime minister to talk about operations and how best to develop this for more than a year, however he refuses to meet and instead prefers for the status quo to remain? He [al-Maliki] preferred to sack me as this ministry is in charge of huge financial projects and they do not want an honest and professional minister.” Allawi added “the process that al-Maliki began against me was characterized by wide-scale discrimination.”

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The former Iraqi Communications Minister informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “one of the most prominent corrupt contracts was connected with a communication network” adding “this is a purely professional issue and the awarding of such contracts depends on the size of the international company and its operations and experience in other states.” Allawi stressed that “this is something that requires investigations and inquiries by experts and technicians before deciding which company to choose.” He revealed that “6 companies put themselves forward for the contract, and we began to study their capabilities, however a contract was concluded with a French company that had a large Iraqi and Lebanese staff” adding “the prime minister imposed this contract on us, and asked me to approve this. This contract was signed without my being informed; it was approved by a Communication Ministry official at Baghdad airport.”

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Revealing the background details surrounding the signing of this contract, the former Communication Ministry said “the Iraqi embassy in Paris provided certified documents claiming that this was a large company with an annual income of 1.5 billion dollars, and that it managed more than 12 communication networks in 24 countries around the world….however we discovered that it is a small company and that it has no communication networks.”

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He added “after we discovered the truth, the contract was suspended, and we took the decision to look for a genuine large and well-known company, and we signed a contract with such a company, and this is what angered some parties, including the adviser who signed the original contract who asked me ‘how can you dare not sign a contract with the company that the prime minister has chosen?’ This led me to file a complaint against this adviser which angered the prime minister, and when this complaint was taken to the Commission on Integrity, this same adviser was placed on the commission, which is against Iraqi laws, as the subject of the complaint cannot be part of the committee investigating it!”
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Allawi told Asharq Al-Awsat “I refuse to be subject to this form of pressure, and I will not take part in any corruption against the state and the Iraqi people…as this means stealing the country’s funds and infringing the rights of the Iraqi citizens.”
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He added “Iraq today is at the summit of the pyramid of the countries that suffer from financial corruption, and we must confront corruption with all our strength. It is sad that this country is being led in this wrong direction, as the prime minister prefers corrupt figures to remain in the [Communication] Ministry, whilst sacrificing a minister who has never been implicated in corruption, but whose operations and achievements are a tribute to professionalism and transparency.”

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As for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s response to Allawi’s message, he revealed that this response focused on questioning the achievements of the Ministry of Communication and his own professionalism. The former Iraqi Communications Minister told Asharq Al-Awsat “unfortunately, the response from the prime minister was that my own operations, not to mention the operations of the ministry, were weak, and this is ridiculous as I received a letter of thanks from deputy prime minister Burhan Saleh in 2007, and also then Financial Minister Baqir Al-Zubeidi, regarding our integrity. Whilst also in 2007, the Wall Street Journal described the Communications Ministry as the best ministry in Iraq.”

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Allawi also claimed that there were background circumstances hindering his relations with the Iraqi prime minister, revealing that “I resigned from the previous al-Maliki cabinet whilst I am also a member of the Iraqiya bloc. Indeed, I am a cousin of Iraqiya bloc leader, Dr. Iyad Allawi.” He added “I previously visited Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf” but stressed that “I refrained from issuing political statements after being appointed minister, and instead focused on my professional work. I worked in a purely professional and responsible manner to serve Iraq.”

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He also confirmed that “I will not return unless reforms are carried out throughout the ministry, and I am now going to the Council of Representatives in Baghdad to clarify things.”

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Allawi stressed that “I did not resign....and in Iraq, what is illegal can be legalized by the courts, one way or another. There are some people who have been implicated in huge corruption cases who have not been found guilty, whilst innocents can be charged based on untrue claims.”

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He added “the country is limping and moving in the wrong direction, otherwise how can the national budget increase by 100 million dollars whilst the country remains in the same state? The best electricity plant would take between one and three years to be built, however al-Maliki has been in power for more than 7 years and no electricity plant has been built, whilst the people are suffering from a lack of services.”

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Commenting on Allawi’s claims, the Iraqi Prime Minister’s media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Prime Minister did not do anything like this whatsoever, this is completely untrue.” He added that the former Iraqi Communication’s Minister “is trying to complicate the issue and place the consequences of his failure on others, including the prime minister”

http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=1&id=30873