The US poured $60 billion (46.2 billion euros) into unsuccessful reconstruction projects in Iraq over the past decade, a report has found. Sloppy oversight and a failure to work with Iraqis caused the massive waste.
A report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction - released on Wednesday - revealed a massive failure to properly apply the American taxpayer funds. Despite billions of dollars invested in rebuilding Iraq by the US government, the country isn't faring much better than a decade ago when reconstruction efforts began.
"Management and funding gaps caused hundreds of projects to fall short of promised results, leaving a legacy of bitter dissatisfaction among many Iraqis," the report said.
Iraq's infrastructure remains damaged, now with abandoned project sites thanks to the ill-used grants, Stuart Bowen, who acted as the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, found in the report. US officials involved had committed serious errors that drained funds, drew out projects over months and years and, in some cases, produced dismal results that left Iraqi officials to pay the difference.
Shortly after President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Congress began approving a series of grants over the following decade aimed at reconstruction efforts.
The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction began in October 2004, when he was tasked by Congress with independently monitoring the use of funds. Since 2009 the Inspector has over twenty reports and have triggered tougher controls and reorganization.
Uncle Sam knows best
Iraqi officials commenting on the latest report's findings confirmed that US personnel neglected to work effectively with Iraqi counterparts, sometimes overriding the interests of the local population with their own ideas of what Iraq needed.
In interviews with Inspector General Bowen, Iraqi politicians described an arrogance by US officials that undermined cooperation.
"Not only was there no coordination between the Department of State, the Pentagon and the CPA [coalition provisional authority], they were fighting each other," Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff to the Kurdish regional government's president, Massoud Barzani, said.
"The policy was to control the Ministries of Oil, Interior, and Defense completely, but if you know nothing about the culture you're trying to control, the result is chaos," said Hussein.
Million dollar mistakes
Numerous examples in Wednesday's report recounted mistakes that cost American taxpayers millions on single projects.
After blowing up the al-Fatah bridge in northern Iraq during the invasion, the US proceeded to sink $75 million into a project to rebuild pipelines under the Tigris River. Officials later spent an additional $29 million to complete the reconstruction. The study suggested the initial failure could have been averted had officials heeded warnings from a geological study that projected difficulties with the terrain.
In other cases, Americans swindled their own government. Cases of fraud among US citizens in Iraq led to numerous arrests and the disappearance of large amounts of funding. Washington also paid too much money for supplies, as had occurred with a stateside-based subcontractor. According to the report, the company charged the US government $900 for a control switch worth only about $7. Pipes worth less than $1.50 were marked up to $80.
Wednesday's report came as a warning to lawmakers who will soon be confronted with approving additional funding to Afghanistan after the US withdraws most of its forces in 2014.
Among the military leaders and Washington lawmakers "appalled" by the findings, Senator Bob Corker - the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - called for better oversight of aid spending.
"We owe this not only to the American taxpayers, but also to the men and women - civilian and uniformed - that we send into dangerous and challenging environments to secure the area and implement U.S. programs," Corker said in a statement released on Wednesday.
kms/jm (AP, AFP)