Judicial Watch • Iraq reconstruction

Iraq reconstruction Archives | Judicial Watch

A decade after the U.S. started the war in Iraq American taxpayers are still funding an exorbitant  “reconstruction” effort in the Middle Eastern nation and a chunk of the money—billions—has been lost to fraud and corruption.

This isn’t something that’s been widely covered because most media lost interest after the last U.S. troops left Iraq in December of 2011. Nearly 5,000 U.S. service members died and more than 32,000 were wounded in the war—George W. Bush’s war—which lasted nearly nine years and cost north of $2 trillion, according to a recent study. The same study, released on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion, estimates that the cost could eventually top $6 trillion.

That extraordinary figure doesn’t even include reconstruction, but is rather limited to actual expenditures from the U.S. Treasury during the war and future commitments such as the medical and disability claims of American veterans. An additional $60 billion has gone to post-war recovery, an ongoing initiative that has been plagued by scandal.

At least $8 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds has been wasted because of contracting abuses and mismanagement, according to the final report released by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). The transitional watchdog has published hundreds of scathing reports over the years and this month released the grand finale, a painful 186-page exposé that includes many examples of the corruption that’s plagued U.S.-funded Iraq reconstruction efforts.

Here is how some of the money was spent; north of $15 billion went to projects that supposedly improved Iraq’s power and water supply, schools, and road and housing repairs. Around $9 billion went to health care, law enforcement and “humanitarian” assistance. Uncle Sam doled out $20 billion to re-equip Iraqi security forces and around $8 billion to enhance the rule of law and crackdown on narcotics. An additional $5 billion was blown on propping up Iraq’s economy.

So, what government agency is to blame for this atrocious multi-billion-dollar waste? The Department of Defense (DOD), according to the SIGIR. That’s because it practically controlled, or at least “held decisive sway” over 87% of the money. In short, the SIGIR writes in its last report that “the U.S. reconstruction program failed to meet its goals because of poor planning, indiscriminate priorities, and insufficient consultation with Iraqi authorities.”

Just last summer the SIGIR released an equally enraging audit estimating that at least $6 to $8 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds had been lost to fraud and waste. Furthermore, that probe revealed that the precise amount lost can never be known because of poor record-keeping. A number of other audits have exposed the ongoing abuse of taxpayer dollars in Iraq reconstruction efforts. 

Congress appropriated a whopping $51.4 billion to help the country recover from the war by, among other things, training local police, building schools, hospitals and transportation systems, but much of the money has literally vanished. The funds were allocated to the DOD, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), though the DOD—especially the Army—has been the leader in handling the money.

Over the years probes have revealed that lucrative contracts never got finished, weapons and sophisticated communication equipment can’t be accounted for and that an unused police housing camp with an Olympic-sized pool and lavish trailers still sits empty in Iraq. A few years ago the Pentagon admitted that lost 6.6 billion in cash that had been flown into Iraq in turboprop military cargo planes for post-invasion reconstruction! The money was bundled in chunks of $100 bills with each aircraft carrying about $2.4 billion. The inspector general referred to it as “the largest theft of funds in national history.”

On the heels of a scathing report documenting exorbitant waste and fraud in the U.S. government’s Iraq reconstruction program, a new federal audit reveals that nearly half a billion dollars in oil destined for the Afghan National Army has vanished.

How do you lose $475 million worth of oil? That is the question posed to the Department of Defense (DOD) by the Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). It will likely never be answered because the DOD has improperly shredded records that could solve the mystery, according to the SIGAR. Those that were spared from the shredder are so poorly kept that little can be made of them.

Here is what the special Afghan reconstruction watchdog concludes in a report issued earlier this month; that the DOD agency in charge of tracking the lost oil “does not have accurate or supportable information on how much U.S. funds are needed for [Army] fuel, where and how the fuel is actually used, or how much fuel has been lost or stolen.”

Run out of Kabul, the Afghan fuel program has received north of $1 billion since 2007 and most of the cash has been provided by Uncle Sam. In 2012 alone $429 million went to the program and by 2014 funding is scheduled to be raised to a whopping $555 million, the SIGAR reveals. At the very least the investigator general suggests freezing current funding levels until the Pentagon makes improvements in its inept accounting and fuel-tracking system.

The DOD has promised to implement a new fuel database and to track invoices better, though the improper destruction of records was not addressed. This is a big joke considering the ongoing and well-documented corruption that has plagued the U.S. reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. Just a few months ago, in its quarterly report to Congress, SIGAR warns about stolen money and fuel, writing that “corruption remains a major threat to the reconstruction effort.”

Iraq is a similar story. Audit after audit has exposed that America’s costly Iraq reconstruction projects are rife with waste, fraud and abuse. The spending is so out of control, that the government has lost track of a large portion of the money, according to the special watchdog assigned to keep track of the never-ending scandal, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).

In its latest audit over the summer, the SIGIR reveals that at least $6 to $8 billion, earmarked for Iraq reconstruction, has been lost to fraud and waste. In all, Congress appropriated a whopping $51.4 billion to help the country recover from the war by, among other things, training local police, building schools, hospitals and transportation systems, but much of the money has literally vanished.

The funds were allocated to the DOD, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Tens of billions of dollars have been spent so far and there seems to be no end in sight to the rampant abuse of taxpayer money. There have been lucrative contracts that never got finished, weapons and sophisticated communication equipment that can’t be accounted for and an unused police housing camp with an Olympic-sized pool and lavish trailers, among other things.

As the end of the war in Iraq approaches its first anniversary, most Americans may not realize that billions of their taxpayer dollars are still being spent on Iraq “reconstruction” projects that are rife with waste, fraud and abuse.

In fact, the government has lost track of a large portion of the money and a special watchdog assigned to keep track of the never-ending scandal, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), has published a series of scathing reports documenting the corruption over the years.

The SIGIR’s latest audit, made public this month, reveals that at least $6 to $8 billion, earmarked for Iraq reconstruction, has been lost to fraud and waste. In all, Congress appropriated a whopping $51.4 billion to help the country recover from the war by, among other things, training local police, building schools, hospitals and transportation systems, but much of the money has literally vanished.

The funds were allocated to the Department of Defense (DOD), the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Tens of billions of dollars have been spent so far and there seems to be no end in sight to the rampant abuse of taxpayer money. There have been lucrative contracts that never got finished, weapons and sophisticated communication equipment that can’t be accounted for and an unused police housing camp with an Olympic-sized pool and lavish trailers.

Last summer the Pentagon admitted that it lost 6.6 billion in cash that had been flown into Iraq in turboprop military cargo planes for post-invasion reconstruction! The money was bundled in chunks of $100 bills with each aircraft carrying about $2.4 billion. In all 21 flights made trips, transporting a total of $12 billion in American currency. More than half vanished however, and SIGIR Stuart Bowen confirmed it was “the largest theft of funds in national history.”

Bowen’s most recent report, the final forensic audit of Iraq reconstruction funds, reiterates that that billions of American taxpayer dollars are at risk of waste and misappropriations though the precise amount lost to fraud and waste can never be known because of poor record-keeping. However, Inspector General Bowen assures that its “significant,” to the tune of billions of dollars.  

At least some of the players have been punished. As of last month, the SIGIR has helped federal prosecutors convict 71 individuals for fraudulent activities involving Iraq reconstruction funds, including bribery, inflating invoices and bid rigging. At least a dozen others have been indicted but the damage has been done and the funds will likely never be recovered. This is what happens when a bloated government program has unlimited funding and no oversight.

 

 

 

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