Corruption Major Factor in Libya’s Derna Dam Disaster

Corruption Major Factor in Libya's Derna Dam Disaster
Corruption Major Factor in Libya's Derna Dam Disaster

Following the catastrophic collapse of the Derna dam in Libya, investigations by the Attorney General’s office and the Court of Audit have uncovered widespread corruption that contributed to the tragedy.

On 10 September, the city of Derna was hit hard by the “Daniel” hurricane, leading to the collapse of two dams and deadly flooding.

The Public Prosecutor’s office has provisionally jailed 16 officials in connection with the disaster. These officials span a range, from the former head of the Water Resources Authority, to the municipal council dean of Derna.

An inquiry committee scrutinized an agreement between the General Water Authority and the Turkish construction firm “Arçel.” Discrepancies were found in the payment made in 2014, which failed to correspond to the work done.

Funds meant for Derna’s reconstruction were also mismanaged. The dean of Derna’s municipal council, Abdulmonem Al-Ghaythi, couldn’t defend the misuse of power, his house was burnt by angry protesters demanding accountability.

Al-Ghaythi, in a previous TV interview, stressed that the catastrophe was beyond the municipality’s capacity and that the government should ensure the safety of dams, hinting at broader culpability than just a few scapegoats.

The Head of the Audit Bureau had previously submitted a report regarding the halted maintenance of the Derna and Abu Mansour dams. As well as urging an inquiry into why the necessary works weren’t completed, despite having ample funds and a conducive environment.

To quell public anger, the interim Libyan government dismissed the entire Derna municipal council, and subjected them to an investigation.

The tragedy in Derna has highlighted the consequences of corruption, leading to an intensified demand for transparency and responsibility.

The catastrophe began with the collapse of the Abu Mansour dam, located 13 kilometers from Derna, with a reservoir capacity of 22.5 million cubic meters (about 800 million cubic feet) of water. Subsequently, the floods destroyed the second dam, with a capacity of 1.5 million cubic meters, just a single kilometer from the coastal city. The torrential floods loaded with debris overwhelmed the dry valley that separates the city into two parts, sweeping entire families out to the sea.

The Minister of Interior in the Libyan Parliament-designated government, Essam Abu Zriba stated that more officials will be subjected to investigation in the coming days.

He added, “No entity will be excluded from the ongoing investigations. Even if supervisory entities are accused of negligence, they will be investigated if their responsibility is proven.” He pointed out that contracts for the maintenance of the dams were signed, indicating their deteriorated condition, but the “concerned authorities did not take the necessary maintenance measures, or even warn about the potential collapse.” He clarified, “There were contracts for the maintenance of the dams and funds allocated for them since 2011, but these contracts were not implemented, which exacerbated the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Daniel.”

Corruption surpasses the causes of the disaster, and extends to the procurement of medicines and medical equipment following direct order deals in the wake of the events.

The Internal Security apparatus in Tripoli arrested the Director of the office of the Chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC), following reports about a corruption case related to the supply of medicines and medical equipment designated for those affected in Derna. He allegedly abused his position to issue direct mandates to two private companies. The Director of one of these companies was also arrested.

Today, the official Spokesman for the Libyan National Army (LNA), General Ahmed Al-Mismari, announced that the death toll from storm Daniel in Libya has risen to 4,029 casualties.

According to the statistics published by Al-Mismari, 697 bodies were recovered in the city between 18-24 September.