WASHINGTON: After invading Iraq 10 years ago, the United States spent $60bn on a vast reconstruction effort that left behind few successes and a litany of failures, an auditor’s report said yesterday.
The ambitious plan to transform the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein has been marked by half-finished projects and crushed expectations, according to the final report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen.
The aid effort was plagued by in-fighting among US agencies and an improvised “adhocracy” approach, with no one clearly in charge of a massive investment that was supposed to put Iraq on a stable footing, said the report to Congress.
“Management and funding gaps caused hundreds of projects to fall short of promised results, leaving a legacy of bitter dissatisfaction among many Iraqis,” it said.
Some of the reconstruction money was stolen, with a number of US military officers and contractors now imprisoned for fraud, while other funds remain unaccounted for to this day, it said.
Of $2.8bn in Iraqi oil revenues handled by the US Defense Department, officials could not produce documents accounting for the use of about $1.7bn, including $1.3bn in fuel purchases, it said.
The lengthy report highlighted some of the worst examples of mismanagement and graft and included interviews with senior Iraqi and US officials who mostly regretted the outcome of the reconstruction programme.
“The level of fraud, waste, and abuse in Iraq was appalling,” Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, was quoted as saying.
She was “especially angry when she learned that some reconstruction money found its way into the hands of insurgent groups,” the report said.
The review, however, concluded that a programme to train and arm Iraqi security forces stood out as a success.
Both Iraqi and US officials agreed that the Americans tended to ignore the advice of Iraqis or never bothered to consult them before launching costly projects, with sometimes disastrous results.
The list of failures included a new police academy with raw sewage leaking through ceilings, a subcontractor charging $900 for a control switch valued at seven dollars and a project to build large prison in Diyala province that was eventually abandoned, despite an
investment of $40m.
Hoping to restore a vital oil and gas pipeline at the Al Fatah bridge, which had been blown up during the US invasion, American officials tried to build a pipeline under the Tigris river at a cost $75m.
A geological study had predicted that drilling in the sandy soil under the river would doom the attempt and the warning proved correct. After the project failed, the pipeline and bridge were fixed, but at an additional cost of $29m.
Iraqi officials recounted a bewildering array of US bureaucrats and contractors who rushed through poorly planned projects while arguing among
“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, chief of staff to the Kurdish regional government’s president, Massoud Barzani, told the inspector general.
“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,” he said. AFP