Wednesday, January 25, 2006

NYT: Meanwhile, graft and corruption continues in Iraq reconstruction

Welcome to AJC! | "A new audit of American financial practices in Iraq has uncovered irregularities including millions of reconstruction dollars stuffed casually into footlockers and filing cabinets, an American soldier in the Philippines who gambled away cash belonging to Iraq, and three Iraqis who plunged to their deaths in a rebuilt hospital elevator that had been improperly certified as safe.

The audit, released Tuesday by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, expands on its previous findings of fraud, incompetence and confusion as the American occupation poured money into training and rebuilding programs in 2003 and 2004.

The special inspector reports to the secretary of defense and the secretary of state. Agents from the inspector general's office found that the living and working quarters of American occupation officials were awash in shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills, colloquially known as 'bricks.'

One official kept $2 million in a bathroom safe, another more than a half-million dollars in an unlocked footlocker. One contractor received more than $100,000 to completely refurbish an Olympic pool but only polished the pumps to make them look new; even so, local American officials certified the work as completed. Agents from the inspector general's office examined more than 2,000 contracts, ranging in value from a few thousand dollars to more than a half-million --- about $88 million in all. The report says that in some cases the agents found clear indications of potential fraud and investigations into those cases are continuing.

Much of the material in the audit describes abandoned rebuilding projects, nonexistent paperwork and cash routinely taken from the main vault at headquarters in the southern city of Hilla, which served as a kind of provincial capital for a vast swath of Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority, without even a log to keep track of transactions."


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