Libya halts payments to former rebels due to widespread fraud

Libya halts payments to former rebels due to widespread fraud

Libya halts payments to former rebels due to widespread fraud

Libyan ex-rebels wait outside the Interior Ministry in Tripoli to register themselves with the hope of being integrated into the military or police. NTC pays bonuses to ex-rebels to encourage them to hand in their weapons. AFP photo

Libya has halted a scheme paying compensation to people who fought in last year’s revolt against Muammar Gadhafi, as it has emerged the scheme was riddled with corruption and paid out cash to people who did not qualify.

A spokesman for the National Transitional Council (NTC) said a list of those eligible under the scheme, which paid out $1.4 billion (1.8 billion Libyan dinars) in less than three months, included people who were dead or who had never fought. “The corruption is too much,” NTC spokesman Mohammed al-Harizy told Reuters on April 9. “Some of the people on the lists aren’t even alive.”

The fighters who took up arms against Gadhafi’s security forces were volunteers, grouped together in informal militias, and in most cases were never paid. Earlier this year, the Libyan government announced that it would give $3,200 to married former fighters and $1,773 to single ex-fighters to support them and honor their bravery. Al-Harizy said the main purpose of the cash scheme was to encourage rebels to join the official institutions of the state and hand in their weapons.

Local military councils were put in charge of administering the funds. They were asked to draw up a list of those who were eligible. Then, based on that list, the central bank allocated funds to the military councils for distribution to the ex-fighters. But the NTC spokesman said the lists were flawed and open to abuse. No further payments would be made until distribution mechanisms are revised and the lists of beneficiaries are approved by local military councils across the country, Agence France-Presse quoted the spokesman as saying. He said an investigation into the corruption was under way.

Repeating names

In some cases, the same names had been repeated more than once, allowing a person to claim multiple times, al-Harizy said. “The government should have created a database containing all the names of those who fought, and each fighter should have opened his own account in the bank because then he’d have to show ID,” he said. This is the latest government scheme to be halted because of abuse.

Earlier this year the Health Ministry canceled a program to give free overseas medical aid to those wounded in the war. The government found that it was footing the bill for airfares, medical and hotel bills for people who were not injured but were able to fake medical statements in return for a government-sponsored holiday. Militiamen angered by non-payment have recently staged small protests in front of the headquarters of the interim authorities in Tripoli and even raised checkpoints blocking traffic in some neighborhoods of the capital.