$57B Reviewed: $10B in “Questionable” or “Unsupported” Costs

The top three auditors of Iraq reconstruction reviewed $57 billion in contracts, one-seventh of the total U.S. expenditures, and found $10 billion in "fuzzy spending."

"$4.9 billion in 'questioned' or overly expensive charges, and $5.1 billion in "unsupported" or undocumented expenses," writes Dan Duray in the San Francisco Chronicle.

More than $10 billion of the money paid to military contractors for Iraq reconstruction and troop support was either excessive or unsupported by documents, including $2.7 billion for contracts held by Halliburton or one of its subsidiaries, Congress was told Thursday.

The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.

With only $57 billion reviewed, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles, Calif.), warned that the total overcharges and fraud could be staggering. (more…)

Waxman Probes Iraq Reconstruction Aid

iraq-white-house-header-denial-and-deception.gif

The actual banner on the White House's official website from before the war started.

This past week, California Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman opened hearings into the waste and fraud of the Iraqi reconstruction from nearly the last four years. The first major attempt to account for billions that have gone missing and management practices that favored partisanship rather than professionalism.

The mere idea of a Truman-style committee on profiteering and waste within the nation's defense apparatus would, to the ordinary American, seem like a good idea.

Six days ago was the fourth anniversary of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell flushing his and America's credibility down the toilet before the United Nations Security Council. We are fast approaching the fourth anniversary of the initial invasion. (I remember staying up all night that first week, quietly in my dorm room during Spring Break.)

To think that the U.S. Congress is just now getting around to asking questions about large quantities of money that just mysteriously went missing and other nefarious dealings inside occupied Iraq, it is just appalling. Shame on the Republican-controlled Congress for ignoring their constitutional duties for so long. (more…)

Parsons Under Fire

From NBC Investigative Reporter Lisa Myers' report on MSNBC, entitled "Did Iraq contractor fleece American taxpayers?" The answer is, well, I'll let you figure it out. (Also, appended at the bottom of her report is a statement from Parsons CEO Jim McNulty.)

WASHINGTON – New revelations have emerged about how tens of millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted in Iraq. A new report by government watchdogs singles out a big American contractor — Parsons — for shoddy work. Investigators charge that Parsons managed to turn a flagship project to help train Iraqi police into a hall of horrors using taxpayer money.

The Baghdad Police Academy was supposed to be a showcase to train Iraqi police — key to the U.S. strategy.

Yeah, and how did that work out? (more…)

Bush Wants $1B in Iraq Reconstruction; Army Opens Up to 50 Fraud Probes

[Matt writes at SOTUblog, The Right's Field and was recently picked up to write at the Huffington Post along with fellow TRF bloggers, Matt Browner Hamlin and Kombiz Lavasany.]

With President Bush's push to adopt the "McCain Doctrine" as official U.S. policy in Iraq, he also seeks to fund $1 billion in Iraq reconstruction projects. After $18 billion was squandered on projects that were never finished or poorly constructed, it is no wonder it has Democrats expressing reservations on the idea.

But Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden made clear there are concerns.

He noted the State Department has already spent nearly $15 billion on reconstruction, and said "the results aren't pretty."

The top Republican on the committee, Senator Richard Lugar, agreed the results of the reconstruction effort have been disappointing.

Yes, I would certainly call this and this and this pitiful projects "disappointing."
(more…)

Waxman Invites Bremer to Appear Before Congress

Bremer's Invitation
"Your presence is politefully requested …"

Three days ago, the blog for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Wire, reported that House Government Reform Committee chair, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles, Calif.), extended an invitation to our favorite civilian administrator in Iraq — L. Paul Bremer.

The inquiry will be part of a larger effort to investigate post-disaster efforts by the Bush administration, including Hurricane Katrina. (At least someone is doing it. No thanks to Republican senator from Connecticut.) 

Yochi Dreazen of Washington Wire says Bremer has kept a "low profile" since leaving Baghdad in 2004. That is, if you can call writing a book on the matter "keeping a low profile."

However, Waxman's invitation appears not to be a legal summons to appear. 

The Waxman letter makes clear that Bremer would face a wide array of questions – and that he would be in for an unpleasant few hours if he agrees to testify. [emphasis added]

Beautiful.

Waxman looks to find out about the nearly $9 billion that went "missing." Dreazen continues:

Waxman writes that the panel wants to ask Bremer, the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, about a government audit that found the CPA had largely lost track of $8.8 billion in Iraqi money that had been entrusted to the U.S. by the United Nations. Much of that money is now believed to have been misspent by the CPA or stolen. Waxman also notes in the letter that he wants to question Bremer about mounting evidence that the Bush administration gave key positions within the CPA to politically-connected Republican operatives and ideologues.

I suggest quoting verbatim from the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City and take it from there.
(more…)

GWB: More Cost, More Loss and More Agony

GWB Black and White TV

This past Wednesday, President Bush addressed the nation from the White House Library to unveil his "New Way Forward" 'strategy' in Iraq. (Throw out those old copies of the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq! They're worth as much as they did at release — nothing.) The decision means the official adoption of the "McCain Doctrine" as U.S. policy, but more importantly, an escalation of American involvement with 21,500 additional forces. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) stamped his seal of approval after the speech.

Will Bunch noted the eerie similarities between Bush's national address and then-President Lyndon Johnson's State of the Union Address from 1967 — forty-years ago to the day. But one such similarity, in particular, stuck out to me.

The year ahead will demand more patience, sacrifice, and resolve. –Bush, 1/10/07

We face more cost, more loss, and more agony. –Johnson, 1/10/67

President Bush's 'plan' includes a reconstruction package and a commitment from the Maliki government to spend $10 billion for that purpose. Pre-speech reports said that Bush was pushing for a reconstruction package, though no mention of U.S. reconstruction aid made it into the speech to the nation.

(more…)

Leahy Introduces War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007

Soon after the American people booted the GOP from Congress in the midterm elections, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) spoke at his alma mater, Georgetown Law School, and talked about, amongst many other pressing issues to come before his Senate Judiciary Committee, war profiteers.

And because prosecuting criminal cases against war profiteering is difficult under current law and has to overcome jurisdictional legal defenses, we also will renew our efforts to enact the War Profiteering Prevention Act.  I have repeatedly offered this bill, and it has passed the Senate, only to die in a Republican-controlled conference committee.

On January 4, the first day of the new Democratic Congress, Senator Leahy made good on those words when he introduced the War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007. The legislation group of bills includes the Effective Corruptions Prosecutions Act of 2007. (Read his remarks on war profiteering prevention and on effective prosecutions.) (more…)

GAO: “DoD Lacks Ability to Oversee Contractors”

[Matt writes at SOTUblog and recently joined The Right's Field — a blog focusing exclusively on the GOP field for president in '08.] 

Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report that stated the Department of Defense "lacks the ability to oversee contractors." Too few military officials, the report says, are assigned to "ensure contract requirements are being met."

The 58-page GAO report is entitled "High-Level DOD Action Needed to Address Long-Standing Problems with Management and Oversight of Contractors Supporting Deployed Forces." Military officials and contractors stationed at home and abroad were interviewed for the report.

In response, the Pentagon created a new office under the assistant deputy undersecretary, reports the UPI. (more…)

The Fightin’ 110th Congress

Senate Judiciary Committee from the 109th Congress
Senate Judiciary Committee in the 109th Congress, including incoming chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont). (photo credit — Newsday)

Just a few days ago, incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), spoke at his alma mater for the Georgetown Law Forum. (Video available at C-SPAN and text here.)

In his prepared remarks, Senator Leahy tackled the issue of war profiteering and the lack of oversight. The six-term senator emphasized a point that many in the pro-oversight community have stressed for years. Corner-cutting war profiteers undermine U.S. military efforts. (By definition, that would back-up then-Senator Harry S. Truman's (D-Missouri) proclamation that war profiteering was "treason.") (more…)