Nasser Nasser View Mohammed al-Sudani Photographer Thaer Khaled Photographer Jalal al-Tai Photographer The whole story of Wasting hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to constructing schools. (Corruption of school buildings projects in Iraq) Implementer: As'ad Al-Zalzali After more than fifteen years past the change in Iraq, Ministry of Education estimates education needs more than 20 thousand schools throughout the country, midst the spread of triple and quadruple educating system within the single school and including schools of Mud which, according to the latest statistics released by Ministry of Planning, have numbered about 11 thousand schools. This shows the magnitude of the tragedy and corruption, causing over 20% of illiteracy today and about 3 million truant children. How did it get to this level despite all millions of dollars allocated to solve the crisis? (Video illustrating the reality of school education in Iraq) (Infograph about the number of buildings) Public frustration: On the ruins of his school located in Dujail district in Salahadeen province (170 km north of Baghdad), stands Hawazin Primary School Director Amer Jasim Abdul Hussain (53 years old) pessimistic complaining about years of waiting long for the salvation of his students from the scourges of studying inside caravans. He reproached the Ministry of Education while he was flipping a pink piece of wood out of the school and saying "is this what democracy promised us? Is this the pink dream promised by the ministry? It resulted in nothing! (Director of a destroyed school in Salah al-Din) The situation of the director of Hawazin is not far from the situation of dozens of schools throughout the country, which were demolished seven years ago to rebuild them, but their students did not see the grapes nor the basket, causing the majority of them to spend the days of study between tinplate cans and mud corners. Steps of projects and allocations of funds: We have tried to track the past projects of the previous governments to eliminate the crisis of school buildings to find the following: The Ministry of Education launched projects in 2008 to fill the country's need of school buildings. The projects were carried out in the form of direct biddings in three stages: iron structures, saving the Marshes, And prefabricated construction .. The latest was the largest in terms of number and money allocated. It is known as (project number one). The prefabricated construction project have been drafted to build more than 1700 schools at a cost of one million and 200 thousand dollars for the school and completion period ranging from one year to two years. Search Trip: To open the file from its inception, we knocked the doors of the Ministry of Planning, the responsible body for studying projects and drawing up plans as needed in most fields and government projects, to learn about the details of the project and the granting mechanisms to the executing companies. As the official spokesman of the Ministry of Planning, Abdul Zahra al-Hindawi, explained "The Ministry of Education referred the project with all its stages to two parts : a part to a government sector through companies belonging to the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Housing and Construction, and another to the private sector, with 21 contracts signed in 50 projects, 18 contracts referred to government ministries and only three contracts referred to the private sector, "He said. (Clarification of the participation rates in the public-private sectors of school construction project) Hindawi mentions that "the government sector referred its contracts to private sector companies, and under the instructions, the proportion of the first operational advance, which amounts to 60 percent of the cost of the project is to be granted or given to government sector companies without guarantees, as a government sector, that guarantees are taken from private sector only ". For his part, said Shirwan al-Waeli, a former deputy in the parliament and the current adviser to the President of the Republic, "In these contracts, they demanded the removal of old schools, but did not implement the new schools, and children remained either in caravans donated by some parties, or remained without schools unfortunately, or have been Integrated into other schools. Although these amounts are met, either concrete or iron or the budget of the revival of the marshes, because in fact these contracts haven't been 100 percent implemented, but partially implemented. "The duration of constructing iron schools is six months, and the concrete is 12 months, but today after eight years, constructions haven't been fully implemented," Waeli explained. By following up on the matter, it turned out that the last project was the most customized, so we chose to dive deep in its hiding places and uncover its secrets. But we have been surprised that the completion rate of the project after five years did not exceed 15 percent, despite the government paying more than 60 percent of the contractors' receivables. Not only sufficed the project with the completion rates, but also destroyed hundreds of schools that housed thousands of students with the hope of rebuilding them. This is clarified in one of the documents we obtained for the project, which requires the destruction of rickety schools, causing the transfer of students to temporary caravans until the completion of constructions. (Document showing the mechanisms of contracts concluded by the Ministry of Education with the public and private sectors) Access to Nasiriyah: From northern Iraq to the south, it is not very different. We went to Dhi Qar (375 km south of Baghdad) to examine its school buildings which were supposed to be built as part of the plan. Schools here have also been demolished and no alternatives have been in place, even after all these years. "I was in the second grade when the government demolished my school, leaving only this foundation," (referring to the remains of old stones) "They then took us to Wasit school, which is relatively remote and requires serious traffic, causing me to have an accident", tells Hossam, a 12-year-old student at the Talabieen school in Shatrah district in Dhi Qar province (375 km south of Baghdad). His story with the education ended up with the demolition of his old school and his deprivation of study. ( Testimony of a student of the school "Talibieen" in Dhi Qar) Mehdi Al-Hamad, 45, one of the elders of the village of Sayed Hamad, asks angry questions to the government authorities that destroyed the village school, which lasted five decades, saying "do the officials accept for their children to study inside the caravans? While the weather is very hot .. more than one child falls every hour due to the intensity of the heat inside the caravan. "If they left the school as it was, it would be better, even if they left the rubble in place, we would have been ready to rebuild it" he added. He assures "Corruption made our children suffer from walking three kilometers a day and the child must leave home two hours before school time." What is the root of the project? Where did the money of the project go? Money supposed to be handed over to companies from government and private sector. Here, it was a must to be back to the capital where the money came out of the Ministry of Education and was deposited in a bank in 2011. The search for the contracts of the project of prefabricated buildings showed that the project offers were forwarded to the companies of the Ministries of Industry and Construction. 600 schools, more than half of which were specifically for Al-Faw Company, the largest contract among other contracts of the project, and we chose it as a sample amid the difficulty of diving in all similar project contracts. In the midst of the research, it appeared to us that the governmental Faw's partners of the private sector were Rhodes and TACSERV, which signed the contract originally with the Minister, and received more than 70 percent of the project funds, while the majority was supposed to be for the government sector as a public, the reasons of which explained by the current Inspector General of the Ministry of Construction Majid Salihi, saying that "the Ministry of Education approved mainly Arab companies to build these schools, and the latter found themselves in need to ensure their money, so it was decided to introduce a government partner, so there were companies of the Ministry of Construction and Housing and the Ministry of Industry. Based on that, there has been calls on government companies to enter with those companies." After a long struggle, we obtained a document showing the terminus of school buildings in that contract, in which the official educational bodies in the various facilities of the country, along with the Minister of Education Mohamed Tamim, issued an ultimatum to Al-Faw and its private partners, Rhodes and TACSERV, two years after the inception, as a result of the delay and non-implementation. (A document containing the Ministry of Education's confession of the project's delay one year after its inception) Beginning of deposit and money loss: Five years ago, the Iraqi government deposited more than 200 billion dinars ($ 170 million) in Dar Al Salam Bank in central Baghdad to fund the construction of 1,700 schools throughout the country. Old schools were demolished and nothing was built. The funds have mysteriously disappeared from Dar Al Salam. (Dar Al Salam Bank building in Baghdad) After months of research, one of the documents we obtained released from the Office of the Inspector-General of the Ministry of Reconstruction shows that $ 200 million was deposited in Dar Al Salam Bank, but the contractor, on his own withdrew the money, in addition to another $ 50 million that disappeared, contrary to the terms of the contract that stipulate money withdrawals ought to be made with the presence of representatives of government companies and the private sector. (A document issued by the Inspector General of the Ministry of Construction and Housing shows the disappearance of more than 200 million dollars of the project funds) After search and investigation, it was found that the two private companies (Rhodes) and TACSERV are owned by the same person, the contractor Faisal As'ad al-Khudairi. Advance payment of the project, which amounts 60% was deposited at a private bank, Dar Al Salam, provided that withdrawals are to be made with the presence of managers of private and government companies exclusively. It turned out that al-Khudairi withdrew more than 180 billion dinars from this account, with no explained purpose for the withdrawal, and it also turned out that 50 billion dinars disappeared from the account in his bank, and with an individual withdrawal by him. As mentioned in this book, which we obtained after months of investigation, submitted from the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Construction to the Integrity Commission in 2013. (A document signed by the Inspector-General of the Ministry of Construction and Housing clarifies Al-Khudairi's withdrawal of funds on his own) A member of the Education Committee of the former Iraqi parliament, and the director of Karkh Education at the time of the project, and one of the members of the committee that was formed to investigate the project Adel al-Janabi confirms that Faisal al-Khudairi is the real responsible for the money, saying, "I spoke to him directly one day and I told him he was offending his family's name which is one of the most important Baghdadi families known." He explains "I was one of the members of the investigation committee at the time. I asked the director of Dar Al Salam how these sums were withdrawn, while this was the competence of the joint committee, which includes the director of the Faw company, who did not receive a single dinar," but there were no understandable answers. We discovered later that the contractor Khudairi had the freedom to decide in the bank, since his father was a former chairman of the Board of Directors of the bank, and that his family has many shares in it .. This is evidenced by the securities documents for the year 2011, which we obtained later and assures that Khudairi's father was the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bank in the same year the project funds were deposited as insurances in the said bank. (A document showing that al-Khudairi's father is the chairman of the bank in the year of the disappearance of funds) The mysterious contractor: Who is this man .. Why wasn't he questioned despite all the documents issued by the offices of inspectors and ministries on the funds of contracts of his companies? This man was hidden and mysterious, and all our attempts to identify him failed, there is no picture, no media appearance, even most of the official authorities have been keeping the name of the person without knowing or meeting him, including Sherwan Kamel al-Waeli adviser to the President of the Republic and the former deputy in the Iraqi parliament, who demanded more than once to open an investigation on the loss of funds allocated to the project number one. In response to our question about knowing the contractor in person he said "I do not know him and I haven't seen a picture of him, I heard that he is a businessman and owns several banks. And it is a habit for businessmen to get out of limelight" The Search in Amman: The investigation about al-Khudairi led us to Amman, in which he settled after withdrawing the amounts mentioned from the bank. In order to uncover the mysterious truth of the man, and after searching for addresses of him, we found the address of his company's headquarters. After heading to it, it was found that there is no such company in the address mentioned, we tried to contact the company using the number attached to the address referring to an Iraqi engineer resident in the Jordanian capital Amman, keen to get a job opportunity. But the confusion that hit the woman who answered ended up with the closure of the line and the abstention to respond to our repeated attempts. (The address of Al Khudairi Company according to the website of the Amman Chamber of Commerce) We returned to Iraq again, and all our attempts to search for Khudairi didn't work except for obtaining personal documents and the registration contracts for his first commercial companies in Baghdad in 1990. As well as his political relations which were denied by many. In addition to an address of his previous company in the area of Jadiriya in central Baghdad, which turned into a closed building no one inside, as we observed to make sure. (Copies of the original documents of the contractor Khudairi) With all the evidence to indicate his involvement, it was necessary to meet al-Khudairi or his representative and confront him, to get a response. We obtained the phone number of his agent in Amman, Abdul Jabbar al-Khuzaie, who was present at one of the minutes of signing the contract with the Minister of Education on behalf of al-Khudairi according to the minutes of the meeting we obtained, which confirms what we got about the money withdrawal and that his father was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Dar Al Salam, and that the family owns shares in the bank, but he attributed the reasons for the delay to "errors of the Ministry of Education in the designs, pressure, and the need of his client to buy raw materials and money disposal" . (A document showing the presence of Abdul Jabbar representing Khudairi in the minutes of the contract with the Minister of Education) Khudairi's representative in Amman held the bank responsible for the loss of money on the grounds that the presence of shares does not prevent the work of the bank, saying "Yes, we withdrew the money, but the bills of import materials we bought with these funds are there." He asked, "Can any dinar be out of any bank without knowing its destination?!" pointing out that "the details are with the Central Bank." (Sound recording of Khudairi's lawyer) After great effort, we were able to get a confidential document issued by the Central Bank, confirming al-Khudairi withdrew funds, while another secret document issued by the judiciary confirms that the man convicted of the disposal of these funds, and that he withdrew money without right, and with this, the evidence for his conviction is complete. (A document issued by the Central Bank of the Integrity Commission condemns al-Khudairi to withdraw funds) Top of the pyramid: There is nothing left in the threads of the game except the head of the pyramid .. where we finally decided to knock the doors of the Ministry of Education, loaded with all these questions, to end up to meet the spokeswoman of the Ministry at the time Hadeel Amiri, who only confirmed what happened and threw the ball in the judiciary's court, fearing to go deep in reply to the details, indicating that "delayed projects are steel structures and prefabricated structures, or so-called project number one, we received these files, and found that we have a large number of debts, and a large number of uncompleted contracts. They did not meet the conditions for the projects and we have done our part to transfer them to the parties responsible". Amiri stresses "former minister Mohammed Iqbal withdrew these files, and submitted to the committees of education and integrity MPs, and the Office of the Inspector General of the Ministry, and discussed the matter in the Council of Ministers." Judgment and resolution: The resolution of the judiciary in the case did not differ from the clear decision of the Central Bank in the decision of the Supreme Judicial Council, which confirms in it, when deciding the case, that al-Khudairi withdrew funds individually without any right, but despite all those decisions that have been absent from the public, Khudairi or any of the culprits were not held responsible for depriving children of the right to natural education. (A document issued by the Higher Judicial Council condemns al-Khudairi to withdraw the funds without right) Terminus of the account and tracking: After seven years and dozens of documents obtained, two documents issued by the Office of the Inspector General of the Ministry of Construction, one in 2014 and confirms that the completion rates in the project did not exceed 15% in most provinces, and the other issued in 2017, and confirms that the rates of implementations did not change much, especially in the Al Faw and Al Khodairi projects, which accounted for only 9 percent, represented by demolitions of previous schools, and laying the foundations only, despite the withdrawal of more than 200 billion dinars (about 170 million dollars) from the project account. (The above documents prove that the percentage of achievement does not exceed 15%) Results of Legal Follow-ups: Few days after presenting the brief visual version of this investigation in 2017, the Supreme Judicial Council issued a decision to imprison the contractor Khudairi in absentia for seven years with the confiscation of his movable and immovable property. A resolution we were able, by tracking, to obtain a copy of it, to sustain the evidence present. However, despite the decision, the contractor was not prosecuted and his property was not damaged. One of which is the real estate in Jadiriyah area that has not been affected and we managed to obtain its title deeds which belonged to Khudairi. And that even today, this building is still without any procedures to implement the decision. Our contact with deputies who knew him confirmed that al-Khudairy repeatedly entered Iraq, MP Mohammed al-Janabi confirmed to us the presence of al-Khudairi in Baghdad after the decision, as well as owning a private jet at Erbil airport for internal traveling. (The decision of the court to imprison Khudairi in absentia and to confiscate his movable and immovable property) (Document showing the address of a building owned by Khudairi in Baghdad) Moves: Before the end of its mandate, the former Iraqi government at the end of the year 2017 to refer the papers of the culprits ministers in the case of contracts of school buildings for the investigation, they are the former Minister of Construction and Housing, Mohamed Saheb Darraji, and the former minister of education, Mohamed Tamim, but none of the investigations has seen the light, and the results were not announced even after the election of a new government this year, while the focus was on the accountability of junior officials of the Ministry of Education, those supervising the project. Investigations did not address the role of ministers and general managers who were in a direct contact with the case. What seniors do, juniors endure: The moves of the government and the integrity committee toward the senior officials named in the investigation into the corruption of the school buildings project quickly disappeared, under the pressure of political influences. The direction to be held responsible for what happened is the junior staff of some engineers assigned by the Ministry of Education to follow the progress of the project in previous years, causing us to keep searching and to take responsibility for revealing the injustice that went on with the juniors, while seniors were not being held accountable. Results of follow-up and research: In 2014, the former Minister of Education, Mohamed Tamim, issued a letter of thanks to eight engineers responsible for following up the implementation of the project, but these engineers did not know that after years they would receive the decision of the Court of Integrity to charge them and convict them of wasting public money and to be sentenced to six months' imprisonment. Leaving the main responsible person of the loss of public money free. (A letter of thanks issued by the former Minister of Education, Mohamed Tamim, to the supervisors of the project) We have further searched for the truth of this decision, which excluded the owners of special grades of officials whose names are mentioned in the track of money loss, and despite the refusal of the engineers to speak fearing for themselves the aggravation of punishment, we went more to search and get all the documents that are related to their case, to investigate and link between the evidences, of which was the most important that one of the engineers who was sentenced to six months for wasting public money in the case of school buildings in 2011, who is called Raed Ibrahim Ismail. We proved through documents that he was originally assigned by the Ministry of Education to start work on the project on 13-12-2012. Which means almost two years after the start of the project, also means in the same year of the delay approved by the government according to the documents we published at the beginning of the investigation. This refutes the decision of the court that accuses the engineer to waste the project funds in 2011, more than a year before his assignment. (The decision of the Court of Integrity, which condemns the engineer Raed Ismail Ibrahim of wasting public funds in 2011 due to his work on the project) (The administrative order for the Engineer mentioned, more than a year past the conviction decision (previous)) The documents we obtained assures that the committees formed by the Ministry have confirmed the innocence of the engineers from all what they have been attributed. In addition to that, we obtained a letter from the Secretary General of the Iraqi Council of Ministers, Ali Mohsen Ismail Al-Alaq, recommends the implementation of Resolution 242 in 2011, that demands an increase in the advance paymant to companies executing the project from 20% to 60% at the request of the Ministry of Education causing, according to what we mentioned in the investigation, the waste of public funds and violation of laws that provide for advances not to exceed 20% according to the implementation rates. (The decision of the fact-finding committee at the Ministry of Education to dismiss engineers and to charge corporates the liability) (The decision of the Council of Ministers to increase the advances from 20% to 60% regardless of the rates of completion) With the waste of more than one billion dollars, and the loss of the children's dreams in the tinplate of their miserable schools, Iraqi governments did not take any action against the culprits, but only exempted some directors-general of the Ministries of Industry and Housing and Reconstruction, without punishing (the protagonists of the real novel). So the chapters of the stories of the schools of illusion (number one) remain between the coffers of the government's investigations, with no hope that the dust will be removed.