Iraq’s Troubled School Building Lesson

Country/area: Iraq

Organisation: OCCRP – DARAJ – New World electronic newspaper

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 27/09/2021

Credit: ASAAD AL-ZALZALEE-Abdulwahed Alobaly and Lara Dihmis


Asaad Al-Zalzali is an investigative journalist. I started working in the journalistic and media field since 2004, and I produced and edited investigative investigations on human organ trade, corruption, human rights, drug theft from government treasures, and corrupt food imported from the government. Award winning:

  • A prize from Darkness to Light, which is being held by Al-Ana’s network for the best documentaries 2020
  • Arab Press Award Dubai 2019, Investigative Journalism category
  • Khaled Al-Khatib Award for best journalistic work in conflict areas around the world organized by Russia Today Channel in Moscow 2018
  • The Samir Kassir Award organized by the European Union Mission in Lebanon for two years, respectively, 2017 and 2018


  • The Bright Light Award organized by the World Investigative Journalism Network 2017


  • Jury Prize 2015 ARIJ Network Festival for Investigative Journalism
  • Jury Prize DIG Festival Italy 2017
  • Personality of the Year Award for Best Investigative Journalist from the 2018 Iraqi Media Forum
  • Ministry of Youth and Sports Award for the best youth journalistic investigation 2014

Project description:

An investigative investigation that took two years to work on, in which it collected more than a thousand documents to talk about the loss of millions of dollars allocated to building schools in Iraq.
Shows the launch of a project 13 years ago to build 200 schools. After all these years, less than 50% of the schools have been delivered.
During the research, we found that the contractor withdrew money from the bank in which he chairs the bank’s board of directors. And to get financing for his company, the bank also went bankrupt.

Impact reached:

The investigation revealed the largest theft and corruption in Iraq, in which more than a billion dollars were lost on unfinished schools, a bankrupt, and a contractor who was not held accountable. The government conducted an investigation into the case after publication and dismissed a group of managers
The contractor’s money has been seized

Techniques/technologies used:


What was the hardest part of this project?

Collecting all these documents, tracking the fate of the funds, the percentage of completion of the study, tracking the bank’s shares, obtaining official and dangerous documents, and following up on the project in more than one governorate. Confronting the contractor and reaching it

What can others learn from this project?

strict scrutiny
Intersection of information and documents
Narration according to temporal data
Don’t give up when you can’t get evidence
Legal review
Hiring a team of specialists
Adhering to the team spirit and consulting them

Project links: