Baghdad: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
has ordered that his electricity minister be fired for
approving USD 1.7 billion in allegedly improper contracts,
officials said on Sunday.
The dismissal of Raad Shallal al-Ani comes little more
than a year after the previous electricity minister resigned
amid protests over poor electricity provision.
Iraq is attempting to tackle chronic power shortages that
leave residents with just a few hours of national grid
electricity per day.
It was not immediately clear, however, whether the
dismissal would need the approval of parliament, or whether
Maliki had approved a pre-existing resignation letter from Ani
in order to fire him.
The dismissal also has political implications for the
Shiite prime minister`s government, as Ani is a member of the
Sunni-backed Iraqiya party, a key coalition partner in his
national unity cabinet.
"Maliki has called for the electricity minister to be
fired," an aide to the premier said on condition of anonymity.
"But only the parliament can dismiss him, the prime minister
can only call for him to be fired."
The aide said Ani was being dismissed over the signing of
two contracts last month with Canadian firm Capgent and
Germany`s MBH to expand power provision in Iraq, where
national grid electricity averages only around six hours per
day during the scorching summer in most major cities.
"The two contracts are both fake, and he is responsible
for signing them," the aide said.
A parliamentary official, however, said Ani was being
dismissed for not following cabinet guidelines on signing
power contracts, as the two companies did not meet Iraqi
criteria to be defined as suppliers.
The official, who did not want to be named, also said
Maliki signed a resignation letter presented to him by Ani in
the past, thereby freeing him of the need to seek MPs`
approval for the firing.
"Ani already presented his resignation to Maliki, but
Maliki did not sign it until now," said the official.
A spokesman for the electricity ministry said it had not
received any order from either the prime minister`s office or
parliament for Ani to be dismissed. He did not respond to
requests for comment over the legality of the contracts.