Inspectors General Up and Running in Iraqi Ministries
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2004 Inspectors general for the Iraqi ministries are up and running, but that they will have challenges, the Defense Department IG said here today.
Joseph E. Schmitz met with his Iraqi counterparts during a trip to the region earlier in the month.
The Iraqi IGs was a main point in transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government. Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III who until today was the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority called for inspectors general to combat theft, graft and cheating in the Iraqi government. The Iraqi IGs are modeled after the U.S. Inspector General Act of 1978.
In March, Bremer appointed some of the inspectors general. By the time he signed sovereignty over to the Iraqis today, all the ministries had inspectors general in place and functioning, Schmitz said.
Schmitz met with the new government officers. During an interview today, he said he ended up giving them a kind of pep talk. The new IGs have now taken on the full responsibility for "being the champions of integrity and what we call engines of positive change within their ministries," he said.
The group is eminently qualified. Schmitz said it includes four retired judges, professors, Iraqi ex-patriots, women and a mix of ethnicities. "All seemed to be professional and well motivated, and frankly, scared and in need of whatever we can give them," he said.
The DoD inspector general said one of the former judges came up to him after his talk. He thanked Schmitz for his words on integrity and the rule of law, and then said that Iraqi society hasn't had any of that. The Iraqi government has "been totally corrupt for more than 40 years," the judge told Schmitz.
Schmitz said he told the man the Iraqi IGs will go through a difficult learning process. "You have to work step by step with setbacks, but the important thing is you learn from your setbacks," Schmitz said. He told the judge they need to stay the course and keep moving forward.
"I have a high level of hope (in the Iraqi IGs)," he said. "The issue isn't whether these folks want to do it. They clearly want to do it. They want to go through the transition, they want to assume a sense of the rule of law. But it's going to be hard. It's going to take time. It might take a generation."
Schmitz said the Iraqi inspectors general are scared. "They are scared for their professional success, and they are physically scared for their own lives and their families' lives," he said.
The crux of the matter is that some of the inspectors general will fail, he said. He said IG personnel in Washington failed. He said these Iraqi men and women shouldn't be "upset by setbacks." There is a good cadre of inspectors general in place in Iraq, and they should simply learn from their mistakes, he said.
The ministries that have inspectors general are: Agriculture, Baghdad, Communications, Culture, Education, Defense, Displacements and Migration, Electricity, Environment, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Health, Higher Education, Housing and Construction, Human Rights, Industry and Minerals, Interior, Justice, Labor and Social Affairs, Municipalities and Public Works, Oil, Planning and Development Cooperation, Science and Technology, Trade, Transportation, Water Resources and Youth and Sport.