By Ali Shuaib
TRIPOLI, May 10 (Reuters) – Libya’s interim finance minister said on Thursday he would resign soon because of “wastage of public funds”, citing a now-halted scheme to compensate former fighters and pressure from them for payment.
“I will resign. I can’t keep working in these circumstances,” Hassan Ziglam told Reuters in an interview. “There is a wastage of public money because nobody fears God.”
When asked when he would hand in his resignation, he said “soon”, but did not elaborate.
Libya last month halted a scheme to pay compensation to people who fought in last year’s revolt against Muammar Gaddafi because it was riddled with corruption and paying out cash to people who did not qualify.
A spokesman for the ruling National Transitional Council said at the time that a list of those eligible under the scheme – which paid out 1.8 billion Libyan dinars ($1.4 billion) in less than three months – included people who were dead or who had never fought.
Ziglam said the decision to pay compensation to former rebel fighters was made before the current interim government was appointed in November.
“I stopped the payment of 1.3 billion dinars,” he said, citing inconsistent lists for those who were due to receive payment.
Disgruntled militiamen demanding cash or jobs in recognition of the role they played in last year’s revolt to oust Gaddafi have now taken to the streets in sometimes violent protests.
The prime minister’s office is frequently the focus of such demonstrations. Many of the militiamen are armed and occasionally their protests turn violent.
On Tuesday, one person was killed and several were injured when militiamen protesting outside the office started shooting, highlighting the country’s volatility a month before its first election.
“They came two days ago with weapons,” Ziglam said. “How can you work in such an environment?”
The payment for former fighters is not the only scheme to have been halted. Earlier this year, the government cancelled a programme meant to provide free overseas medical care for the uprising’s wounded after it turned out to be riddled with fraud too.
In that case, the government discovered it was picking up the air fares, medical and hotel bills of people who had simply obtained faked documents saying they were wounded.
Next month’s election will choose an assembly to draft a constitution, but insecurity in the country could jeopardise the polls. (Editing by Michael Roddy)