Report: Corruption, yet progress, in Iraq reconstruction projects
The $30 billion American reconstruction effort in Iraq has been plagued by violence, corruption and mismanagement, though important progress has been made in restoring basic services and tracking project funds, a government auditor has found.
In a report delivered to Congress earlier this week, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, Stuart W. Bowen Jr. said millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded projects are unaccounted for and violence against contractors has increased.
Nearly 1,900 of a planned 2,800 reconstruction projects — ranging from police stations to schools to medical centers — have been completed, according to the Iraq Reconstruction and Management Office.
Power and water have been restored to several areas, though many parts of the country still see intermittent service.
U.S. officials have acknowledged that nearly one-quarter of the reconstruction budget has been allocated for security, both for project sites and workers. According to reconstruction officials in Baghdad, the projects make attractive targets for insurgents, who want to discourage cooperation with Americans and sow anger in local populations.
The available money for projects has been reduced by material cost and delays, security costs and red tape, Bowen found.
Bowen said a “reconstruction gap” likely will exist between “the number of projects that the United States originally proposed to build in Iraq and the number of projects that the United States will ultimately complete.”
But the report also said significant progress was being made, both in the physical projects and in the business and contracting operations being built from the ground up.
“I think that the report confirms what we have been saying for some time — that we continue to make progress in rebuilding Iraq,” Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, told the New York Times.
“There’s a war going on, so not everything can be known, but there’s certainly a desire to discover” more complete information, Venable said, according to the Times.
Auditors inspected five electrical substations as part of the review and found that, while the construction was excellent, the stations were not connected to any distribution system for the electricity generated.
“The completed substations were found to be well planned, well designed and well constructed,” the report read. “No date for installing the distribution system was given.”
The five substations were built in southern Iraq, with a budget of $28.8 million.
At least 24 cases of fraud have been investigated in the past three months, though no formal charges have been brought in those cases, officials said.