TNT – “Tidbits From TNT” Monday 1-22-2024

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Tishwash:  Parliamentary Finance reveals the most prominent amendments that will be made to the 2024 budget

Today, Monday, the Parliamentary Finance Committee revealed the amendments that will be made by the government to the 2024 budget tables, noting that the variables in the 2024 budget tables will be sent to Parliament next month for approval.

Committee member, Moeen Al-Kadhimi, said in a statement followed by Al-Eqtisad News, that “the Finance Committee met yesterday, Sunday, with the Minister of Finance, in which many topics were discussed related to the changes that will be made in the 2024 budget tables.”

He added, “The most important variables are an increase in the allocations for rations, social care, and allocations for purchasing rice and wheat from farmers, in addition to an increase in allocations related to the electricity sector and the costs of oil production.”

Al-Kadhimi indicated that “the amendments to the 2024 budget will be submitted to the House of Representatives next month for approval.”   link

CandyKisses:  Sudani: Victory over ISIS necessitates changing the mission of the international coalition

Information/BaghdadPrime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani stressed on Monday his rejection of any aggression on Iraqi soil or prejudice to its autonomy, while pointing out that the reason for the expansion of the conflict in the region is due to the continuation of the war in Gaza.

The media office of the Prime Minister, in a statement received by the information, that “Sudanese, received today the Dutch Minister of Defense Casey Olonggreen and her accompanying delegation.”He added that “during the meeting, they discussed bilateral relations between the two countries, and ways to enhance cooperation in all fields, as well as the joint files that will be discussed during the Prime Minister’s visit to the Netherlands, based on the official invitation submitted by the Dutch Prime Minister.”

The prime minister praised “the efforts of the Netherlands in helping Iraq during its war against terrorism, within NATO,” stressing his rejection of “any aggression on the territory of Iraq or prejudice to its autonomy.”He renewed “the government’s commitment to providing protection for diplomatic missions and advisors working in Iraq,” pointing to “the government’s decision to rearrange the relationship with the international coalition and move to another level of bilateral relations and cooperation with the coalition countries.”

The Prime Minister stressed that “the reason for the expansion of the conflict in the region is due to the continuation of the war in Gaza and the brutal crimes committed by the occupation authorities against the Palestinian people,” calling on “the international community to exert Pressure to stop genocide and policies of killing and starvation, as well as pressure to limit the opening of other fronts that lead to destabilization in the region and the world.

“For her part, Olonggren expressed her thanks “for the efforts of the Prime Minister in maintaining security and stability, and activating the good relations between Iraq and the Netherlands.”

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CandyKissses:  A scandal of high caliber. UN staff in Iraq took bribes to help businessmen

Baghdad Today – Follow-up

An investigation conducted by the British newspaper The Guardian revealed on Monday (January 22, 2024) that employees working for the United Nations in Iraq are demanding bribes to help businessmen win contracts in post-war reconstruction projects in the country, noting that United Nations employees Required 15% of the value of contracts.

The alleged commissions are one of a number of allegations of corruption and mismanagement revealed by The Guardian at the Stabilization Financing Facility, a $1.5 billion UNDP scheme launched in 2015 from more than 30 donors.

Interviews with more than two dozen current and former UN staff, contractors and Iraqi and Western officials suggest that the UN is nurturing the culture of bribery that has permeated Iraqi society since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The Guardian found that “UNDP staff demanded bribes of up to 15 per cent of the contract value, according to three staff members and four contractors,” and in return, the employee helps the contractor navigate the UNDP’s complex bidding system to ensure that the vetting process passes.

The newspaper quoted one of the contractors, saying that “no one can get a contract without paying, and there is nothing in this country that you can get without paying, neither from the government nor from the United Nations Development Program,” noting that ” UNDP employees contacted them asking for bribes.”

One UNDP staff member said the deals were made in person rather than on paper to avoid being discovered, with influential Iraqis sometimes acting as guarantors, noting that “the third party also takes a share of the bribes,” adding that contractors “will choose people with connections and power.”

Government officials entrusted by UNDP with supervision of construction projects are allegedly also receiving a share.

Contractors and UNDP staff who oversaw the projects explained that officials used that power to “extort” to obtain bribes from companies in exchange for signing projects completed, with two contractors tellingThe Guardianthat they were forced to make such payments.

The interviewees, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said the program had seen unwarranted expansion and extension that mostly preserved the UNDP footprint while relieving the Iraqi government of its own obligations to rebuild the country.

The newspaper also indicates that most of those interviewed described the training and workshops run by the United Nations Development Program within the framework of these initiatives as “trivial” and “lacking strategic coherence.”

The Guardian was told that the sessions were attended by government officials and community members mostly to enjoy a free trip and cash in, with one former staff member saying: “UNDP just wants to burn money and show donors that they are doing workshops.”

A former staff member described the UNDP Livelihood Initiative to teach displaced women to sew as “unrealistic” because Iraqis tend to buy cheap imported clothes from local markets: “They were trying to create an economy that doesn’t exist.” “It was like going back to the Middle Ages,” they added.

UNDP said initiatives such as skills training were developed based on community needs and in full consultation with local authorities or community leaders.

Donors have appreciated the difficulty of tracking how their funding is and relying on UNDP to carry out monitoring and evaluation through an internal unit that the agency described as “fully independent”, even though it is managed by UNDP.

Five interviewees familiar with the UNDP reported they did not reflect the reality on the ground.

One consultant who conducted an external audit of another UNDP program said: “A lot of these documents are mostly for PR purposes, when you actually go to these districts and sit down with the beneficiaries of these funds and actually look at the projects, it’s very different from what you imagine by reading these reports.”

Isolated behind concrete walls and allowed only limited field visits due to strict security protocol, embassy staff appear to lack the means to challenge the information, with a Western official noting, “Everyone only stays for two years, and when they find out, they leave ” ” “That’s how these programs continue year after year.”

Responding to the Guardian’s request for comment, an advisor to the Iraqi prime minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, said that if allegations of corruption at the UNDP and the involvement of government agencies were proven to be true, legal action would be taken. .

Farhad Aladdin added, “We will communicate with the highest authorities in the United Nations to discuss the details of these allegations, investigate them and refer those involved in corruption to the competent authorities.” We will also review all programs to find out the truth.”