Corruption hampering power provision: Iraq speaker

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Corruption has spread through the Iraqi government "like an octopus" and is hampering electricity provision, parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi said on Tuesday.

Nujaifi said that corrupt "mafias" were an impediment to political reform and progress in the country, and noted that the electricity sector in Iraq was "rife with corruption."

"There are also the corruption mafias that seem to spread through the establishment like an octopus," Nujaifi said at a conference at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, according to an English translation of his Arabic remarks provided by the think tank.

"Those mafias are the biggest impediment to political reform and to any political progress being made."

Nujaifi did not elaborate on what he meant by "mafias," but pointed to corruption as the reason for a lack of progress in electricity provision, more than eight years after a US-led invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi households still receive only a few hours of government-supplied power, and must use communal and private generators to fill the gaps.

The shortfall is particularly acute during Iraq's scorching summer, when temperatures top 50 degrees Celsius in much of the country, and air conditioners and fridges need to run constantly.

"After all this time, and without any traces of accountability, there is no question that there is an incredible amount of shortcoming," Nujaifi said, responding to a question regarding the power supply.

"In fact, there is a government failure in handling this particular dossier, and the main reason is corruption. This particular sector is rife with corruption."

Iraq on Monday named a new electricity minister, Abdulkarim Aftan, after the previous minister, Raad Shallal al-Ani, was fired over the summer for approving more than $2 billion in allegedly improper contracts.

Ani's dismissal came little more than a year after his predecessor resigned amid protests over poor electricity provision.

"There has to be a transparent and a clean administration of this particular sector," Nujaifi said. "There can be no question that this is a great area of failure."

© 2011 AFP

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