Iraqi army revealed to have 50,000 'ghost soldiers' on its roll

Ghost employees are a well-known form of corruption in Iraq

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The Independent Online

An investigation has revealed the existence of 50,000 ‘ghost soldiers’ in the Iraqi army, the country’s Prime Minister has said.

Ghost employees are a well-known form of corruption in Iraq but Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has for the first time put a firm figure on the extent to which it pervades the military.

Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s newly installed Prime Minister, revealed the figure after an official head-count of the army was carried out during the payment process. The total is equivalent to four divisions.

His spokesman Rafid Jaboori said: "The prime minister revealed the existence of 50,000 fictitious names.

“Over the past few weeks, the PM has been cracking down to expose the ghost soldiers and get to the root of the problem.”

The announcement is an indication that he intends further action against state corruption in the military and beyond. Earlier this month he sacked 36 army commanders in a move intended to improve the efficiency of the military and to reduce graft.

Mr Jaboori added: “Haidar al-Abadi is setting integrity, efficiency and courage as the criteria to appoint a new military leadership. This weeding out process will extend beyond the military to all state institutions.”

Fictitious soldiers, known as 'fadhaiyin', are created to provide extra income for officers and the more senior the rank the more ‘ghost’ incomes there are.

"There are two kinds of fadhaiyin," an officer in the security forces told AFP. "The first kind: each officer is allowed, for example, five guards. He'll keep two, send three home and pocket their salary or an agreed percentage.

"Then the second and bigger group is at the brigade level. A brigade commander usually has 30, 40 or more soldiers who stay at home or don't exist. The problem is that he too, to keep his job as a brigade commander, has to bribe his own hierarchical superiors with huge amounts of money."

Mohammed Othman al-Khalidi, a former member of the Iraqi Parliament, estimated recently that up to 30 per cent of the Army could be fictional, helping to explain the ease with which they were routed by Isis militants advancing on Mosul in July.