White House faces Iraqi reconstruction ‘scandal’

US $9 billion missing from Iraqi reconstruction funds, according to a report

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By  Eudore Chand Published  February 26, 2005

A leading US senator has accused the White House of a scandal in Iraq’s reconstruction efforts during a hearing organised by Democrats. The meeting called for a full congressional hearing on alleged contracting abuses in Iraq. “This is a scandal,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada on the issue of contracts over Iraq’s reconstruction. Reid accused US President George Bush of not getting it right in Iraq, and for allowing the rebuilding of the war-torn country, two years after the US-led invasion, to become as chaotic as “the Wild West.” During the hearings into the alleged corruption of US-led Coalition Provisional Authority officials in Iraq, civilians spoke before the US Congress and said bags full of cash were tossed freely about, at times as footballs, according to a report carried by Kuwait News Agency. It said the CPA was accused of storing millions of dollars in the CPA office with minimal accounting oversight. A report released in January held the CPA responsible for nearly US $9 billion in missing Iraqi funds. According to the report by Stuart Bowen, the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, the CPA was accused of corruption that involved paying salaries to non-existent employees and issuing multimillion-dollar contracts with very little supervision. “While acknowledging the extraordinarily challenging threatening environment that confronted the CPA throughout its existence, and the number of actions taken by CPA to improve the [interim Iraqi government’s] budgeting and financial management, we believe the CPA management of Iraq’s national budget process and oversight of Iraqi funds was burdened by severe inefficiencies and poor management,” the report said. Former CPA administrator Paul Bremer disagreed with the report’s conclusions, saying that the CPA encouraged accountability and transparency. Bush has officially submitted an emergency $80 billion request to Congress for more reconstruction funds in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, Congress has approved over $18 billion for reconstruction in Iraq. However, less than 20% of that amount has been spent because of lack of security. Security is a major concern in Iraq where consultants and architects believe that up to 25% of a project’s cost goes on site security alone.

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