Still More U.S. Corruption Scandals in Iraq
|November 13, 2003||Posted by Staff under The Progress Report|
Soldiers Dying as Bush Allows Private Companies to Pile Up Loot
Even Congress is Appalled by New U.S. Corruption in Iraq
It was scandalous already, as reported in a previous article, but now we’re receiving still more stories of U.S. corruption in Iraq.
from anti-corruption group Transparency International –
USAID Gets Caught
The US Agency for International Development (USAID), one of the prime sources of contracts to rebuild postwar Iraq, came under fire from a congressman who accused it of stonewalling on his requests for information.
Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California and a relentless critic of the White House’s Iraq policy, said USAID had failed to turn over copies of contract information his office requested more than six months ago despite repeated requests.
At the same time, Mr Waxman said USAID was publicly trumpeting its transparency and co-operation! “I urge you to align your agency’s actions with your rhetoric,” Mr Waxman wrote to Andrew Natsios, the head of USAID, in a letter released by his office, as he again rendered his request for details about the contracts.
Administration Abandons Free Market
Waxman’s complaint follows the publication of a report last week by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), an independent watchdog group, concluding that USAID and other agencies awarded Iraq contracts in an opaque (secret) and haphazard way. Many of those contracts went to companies that donated money to George W. Bush’s 2000 election campaign.
USAID, an arm of the State Department, has awarded 11 contracts and five grants in Iraq so far. It courted controversy when it invited only a select group of large US companies to bid on a $680 million (592m, £404m) assignment to make emergency repairs to Iraq’s infrastructure. The contract, which went to Bechtel, the San Francisco construction and engineering company, has since swelled to more than $1 billion. A follow-on contract for later is also worth more than $1 billion.
Waxman said in his letter that he first requested details of the contract process and the scope of the work in April.
“At the same time that USAID is refusing to provide basic information to members of Congress, the agency is portraying itself in public as fully co-operating with any and all requests for information,” Mr Waxman wrote.
Republicans made themselves seem even more corrupt when last week several provisions to provide greater oversight of the work done by private companies in Iraq were stripped out of the $87 billion supplemental funding bill working its way through Congress.
from the Financial Times –
Rumsfeld Forced to Appoint Inspector to Check Contracts
Under pressure from Congress, Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defence, is to announce his appointment of an inspector-general for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to investigate the awarding of multibillion dollar reconstruction contracts.
The appointment is a response to congressional demands for more accountability in the spending of George W. Bush’s huge $87 billion (76bn, £52bn) supplemental spending budget for war and reconstruction.
Administration officials claim they too are concerned about possible corruption and have started “looking into” the awarding of three licences to build mobile telephone networks in Iraq.
Mr Rumsfeld admitted two years ago that the Pentagon’s own outdated financial reporting system meant that “according to some estimates” it could not “track $2,300 billion in transactions”.
Appointment of the inspector-general follows the creation of a new body, the Iraq Infrastructure Reconstruction Office, which the Pentagon said would “emphasise full and open competition in awarding contracts”. That would contradict the current Bush policy of secret no-bid contracts.
Competition, or Cover-ups?
Democrats said the appointment did not go far enough and were concerned that the inspector-general would report to Mr Rumsfeld and not Congress. Senator Hillary Clinton said last week that “this fake inspector-general” was to be “a fig leaf for the failure to have real accountability. We have story after story of waste and cronyism in Iraq. We have very little response from the administration.”
“There’s a lot of suspicion over who is getting kick-backs,” admitted a source close to the Pentagon. “The body-bags are coming home and people are furious.”
The non-governmental Open Society Institute said close scrutiny was required, both of US taxpayers’ money and Iraqi oil revenues. “American accountability is a key pillar for building peace in Iraq.”
The awarding of contracts, described by those taking part as a “nebulous” procedure, has also added to the strain in relations between Paul Bremer’s occupation authority and the US-installed Iraqi Governing Council. There is particular concern over oil and communications.
The Pentagon’s own inspector-general has also been asked to investigate how the mobile telephone licences were awarded.
Corruption is un-American. We favor an open bidding, free market process for contracts. Why doesn’t the Bush administration? What’s your opinion? Tell your views to The Progress Report.