Iraq Government Hit by Graft: 4,000 Forged University Degrees Uncovered

Iraq's government is being crippled by corruption at a time when millions of Iraqis went to the polls to select new provincial councils.

The Higher Education and Scientific Research Ministry's inspector general says graft and forgery are threats that may derail any democratic reforms.

Abdulhameed al-Rawi said his office has spotted more than 2,000 forged post-graduate degrees presented by government officials, faculty members of colleges and institutions.

The rest, nearly 2,000 degrees, belonged to people holding undergraduate certificates, he said.

Rawi said his office was aware of forged degrees which their holders claim to have been issued by foreign universities.

"We have passed the cases of those who presented such degrees to the courts," Rawi said.

He said he has set up a special commission to look into all kinds of certificates whose holders have presented them in order to obtain government-financed posts.

"It is no longer enough to just submit the certificate. From now on we need confirmation from the issuing body and a register of grades and performance," Rawi said.

Meantime, Iraqis headed to polls in droves on Saturday particularly in Sunni-dominated areas which had boycotted the 2005 vote.

Many Sunni Arabs have decided to return forcefully to the political process and snatch their share of government.

The elections are expected to transform the political scene particularly in strategic and hitherto restive provinces like Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital.

Mosul provincial council has been dominated by Kurds. But Saturday's vote and the high turnout of Arab Sunnis are certain to eject Kurdish domination and place the province once again under Sunni Arab rule.

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