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As U.S. Rebuilds, Iraq Won’t Act on Finished Work

Discussion in 'World Politics' started by Truth-Bringer, Jul 29, 2007.

  1. Truth-Bringer

    Truth-Bringer New Member

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    Exporting government boondoggles...

    As U.S. Rebuilds, Iraq Won’t Act on Finished Work

    By JAMES GLANZ

    Iraq’s national government is refusing to take possession of thousands of American-financed reconstruction projects, forcing the United States either to hand them over to local Iraqis, who often lack the proper training and resources to keep the projects running, or commit new money to an effort that has already consumed billions of taxpayer dollars.

    The conclusions, detailed in a report released Friday by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, a federal oversight agency, include the finding that of 2,797 completed projects costing $5.8 billion, Iraq’s national government had, by the spring of this year, accepted only 435 projects valued at $501 million. Few transfers to Iraqi national government control have taken place since the current Iraqi government, which is frequently criticized for inaction on matters relating to the American intervention, took office in 2006.

    The United States often promotes the number of rebuilding projects, like power plants and hospitals, that have been completed in Iraq, citing them as signs of progress in a nation otherwise fraught with violence and political stalemate. But closer examination by the inspector general’s office, headed by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., has found that a number of individual projects are crumbling, abandoned or otherwise inoperative only months after the United States declared that they had been successfully completed. The United States always intended to hand over projects to the Iraqi government when they were completed.

    Although Mr. Bowen’s latest report is primarily a financial overview, he said in an interview that it raised serious questions on whether the problems his inspectors had found were much more widespread in the reconstruction program.

    The process of transferring projects to Iraq “worked for a while,” Mr. Bowen said. But then the new government took over and installed its finance minister, Bayan Jabr, who has been a continuing center of controversy in his various government posts and is formally in charge of the transfers.

    “After Mr. Jabr took over, that process ceased to function,” Mr. Bowen said.

    In fact, in the first two quarters of 2007, Mr. Bowen said, his inspectors found significant problems in all but 2 of the 12 projects they examined after the United States declared those projects completed.

    In one of the most recent cases, a $90 million project to overhaul two giant turbines at the Dora power plant in Baghdad failed after completion because employees at the plant did not know how to operate the turbines properly and the wrong fuel was used. The additional power is critically needed in Baghdad, where residents often have only a few hours of electricity a day.

    Because the Iraqi government will not formally accept projects like the refurbished turbines, the United States is “finding someone at the local level to handle the project, handing them the keys and saying, ‘Operate and maintain it,’ ” another official in the inspector general’s office said.

    If the pace of the American rebuilding program is a guide, those problems could quickly accelerate: So far, the United States has declared that $5.8 billion in American taxpayer-financed projects have been completed, but most of the rest of the projects within a $21 billion rebuilding program that Mr. Bowen examined in the report are expected to be finished by the end of this year. Some of that money is also being used to train and equip Iraqi security forces rather than finance construction projects.

    The report was released too late in the day to contact Mr. Jabr, who is part of a Shiite alliance in charge of the government. In his previous position as interior minister, he was accused of running Shiite death squads out of the ministry. In his current position he has developed a reputation as being slow to release budget money to Iraqi government entities, which would have to run the new projects at substantial expense.

    He is sometimes suspected of seeking to use his position to undermine the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who is also a Shiite but answers to a different faction within the alliance. In interviews, Mr. Jabr has rejected those accusations and says he strongly supports the government.

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