Iraq’s electricity supplies, economic and social living standards are still below pre-invasion levels as the construction process has been stumbling over corruption and unabated violence, a US congressional inspection team has said in a new scathing report.
Many Iraqis still have no access to clean water and lack proper health care systems in a country stricken by serious shortage in hospitals and health centers as well as power outages mainly in Baghdad, Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction (Sigir) assigned by Congress, said in his detailed report, Britain’s the Guardian newspaper reported Monday, May 1.
The report says contractors, mainly from the US, failed to carry out construction projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The US administration of George W. Bush has awarded lucrative oil and reconstruction contracts in Iraq to giant US firms, chiefly Halliburton and Bechtel Group, in the wake of the US invasion of the country in March 2003.
Britain’s major firms, including many with long-standing relationships with the ruling Labour, have also had a fair slice of the cake.
Since the reconstruction effort began in 2003, midcourse changes by US officials have shifted billions of dollars from the rebuilding of Iraq’s decrepit electrical, education, water, sewage, sanitation and oil networks to build new security forces and to construct a nationwide system of security prisons and detention centers.
The investigation and trial of Saddam also ate a big chunk of money allocated originally for the reconstruction of Iraq, it added.
The report says corruption of contractors and some Iraqi officials is the main culprit behind the reconstruction failure.
“Corruption is another form of insurgency. This second insurgency can be defeated only through the development of democratic values and systems, especially the evolution of effective anti-corruption institutions,” it said.
The report the inspection team is investigating 72 cases of alleged fraud and corruption, and is pursuing leads not only in the US but in Europe and the Middle East.
In one case, a US company was given a contract to build 150 health centers in Iraq, but only six have been built, all in Baghdad, in spite of 75% of its allocated $186m having been spent.
The report says that corruption in the oil and gas sector is a continuing problem that could have “devastating effects” on reconstruction in Iraq.
It notes that a former contractor and former senior staffer in the now defunct US-led “coalition” government are facing jail sentences 30 to 40 years on corruption charges.
The contractor will have to pay $3.6m in restitution and forfeit $3.6m in assets.
Congress has approved $21bn for reconstruction since the invasion, of which 67% has been allocated. Precisely how much has been squandered is not known.
Last year the congressional team reported that almost $9bn in Iraqi oil revenues disbursed to ministries had gone missing.
Calling it the “extraordinary scandal of Iraq’s missing billions,” the Guardian reported in July 2004 that over $8 billion of money that was supposed to be spent on rebuilding war-scattered Iraq under the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) went missing.
It said the payroll was padded with hundreds of ghost employees and hundreds of millions of dollars were paid to contractors for phantom work.