In Iraq almost all official records are kept on paper. So what better way to kill the paper trail that corruption investigators are tracking, than burn the evidence? A rash of fires inside government buildings has led to calls for further investigation.
A recent rash of small fires inside the offices of various ministries and government buildings in Baghdad would normally have security forces on the lookout for an arsonist. Or maybe checking on faulty electric wiring. However in this case, the fires appear to have more to do with the work of the Iraqi parliament’s Commission on Integrity, an independent body responsible for uncovering corruption at all levels of Iraqi government.
Although many of the fires have occurred in offices miles from one another, the one thing that blazes burning in government buildings seem to have in common is a pending or ongoing investigation by the Commission on Integrity (CoI). Investigations into the various fires mostly conclude that they were the result of faulty electrical wiring, something that is hardly uncommon in Iraq. However well informed politicians, who are only too well aware of how widespread corruption is within their own ranks, remain sceptical.
“Burning any files that could convict a corrupt individual is a perfect solution, when the Commission comes to investigate,” Uthman al-Jahshi of the CoI told NIQASH; almost all official documents in Iraq are not in digital form with most only existing on paper. “We believe that senior officials and staff are involved in planning these fires, in order to hide evidence of corruption inside government departments. The excuse that it was an electrical short circuit is being used by the investigators from inside the ministries to cover everything up,” he argued.
It is not just the CoI complaining about the fires. During his Friday sermon Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai, the representative of Iraq’s most influential and important Shiite Muslim theologian, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, made mention of the various fires which brought the issue to public attention.