Yet again U.S. Department of Defense can’t account for billions in Iraq
By End the Lie
Two new audits conducted by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) have discovered that the United States Department of Defense (DOD) cannot account for a whopping $2 billion it was given to fund the reconstruction of Iraq.
To make matters even worse, the DOD is not even providing Iraq with a complete record of the construction projects funded by the United States, making the accounting even more difficult, if not impossible.
Back in 2004, Iraq provided $3 billion to the DOD to fund selected construction projects, but only about one third of those funds have been tracked according to the inspector general’s “January Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report” which was released recently and can be located here (along with other reports released by the inspector general).
The DOD claims that they have “internal processes and controls” in place to track the flow of money, yet they admit the “bulk of the records are missing,” and claim that they are in the process of searching for them.
Claiming you have internal controls while $2 billion is missing is laughable and shows just how ludicrously incompetent our government can be.
However, there is the very real possibility that this has nothing to do with incompetence and instead is yet another example of individuals in government conspiring to cash in.
This very well might be the case given that other documents including monthly reports which document the expenses have mysteriously gone missing as well.
Another indicator that this is something more than mere incompetence is the fact that in June of last year, the New York Federal Reserve refused to disclose details about the billions of dollars the Fed sent to Iraq during the beginning of the invasion.
The inspector general claimed it was not the fault of the New York Fed but instead the Iraqis since “They haven’t been sufficiently responsive.”
Furthermore, earlier that month it was reported that $6.6 billion in fresh $100 bills was sent by plane to Iraq and then could not be accounted for by the DOD.
Then in October of last year, the inspector general said that the $6.6 billion was not actually lost but in fact made it to the intended destination and was under control of the Iraqi government.
The report that supposedly dispelled the mystery surrounding the unaccounted for funds said, “Sufficient evidence exists showing that almost all of the remaining $6.6 billion remaining was transferred to actual and legal [Central Bank of Iraq] control.”
For someone like me, the part which reads, “Sufficient evidence exists showing that almost all…” seems highly suspicious.
If they actually could account for all of the money they wouldn’t use such ambiguous language, instead they would likely say something like, “We have now found that all…” due to the fact that “Sufficient evidence” and “almost all” are hardly conclusive.
The DOD seems mostly to blame for this, seeing as the new report states, “From July 2004 through December 2007, DoD should have provided 42 monthly reports. However, it can locate only the first four reports.”
That’s right; the DOD actually provided less than 10 percent of the reports they were supposed to produce, something which apparently SIGIR didn’t notice for years.
Defense Under Secretary Mark Easton acknowledged, “a records management issue,” in a response letter to the audit, and it seems that they are placing the blame on the highly ambiguous “records management” which is obviously a way to keep a single person from being held responsible.
If they just continue to say it was a problem with records management, they can simply say that there was a problem with protocol and claim they fixed it without any individuals actually being held accountable for their actions.
They claim that when records were available, which is obviously only a small fraction of the time, they were congruent with other records and contained “good financial documentation supporting individual payments,” although that means absolutely nothing as it doesn’t help account for the missing $2 billion.
According to CNN, in a letter separate from the report sent by the inspector general’s office to the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq the office said that the government of the United States is not providing the Iraqis with a complete list of the construction projects.
Furthermore, the letter says that the criteria for reporting projects is a major part of the problem, seeing as only projects valued at $250,000 or more are selected to be reported to Iraq.
This means that the DOD could hand out $249,999.99 contracts to their cronies without having to report a single one. If that isn’t ridiculous I don’t know what is.
The U.S. Embassy says this seemingly absurd system was designed in order to help the government of Iraq “focus its limited resources on sustainment of infrastructure and other large capital projects done through U.S. reconstruction efforts,” according to the report.
The office of the inspector general argues in that the highly limited list of projects, which they say is also “hampered by unreliable data and other data entry problems” keeps Iraq from being able to properly decide where they need to devote resources.
They also point out that Iraq very well might consider some smaller-scale projects which do not meet the $250,000 reporting criteria to be more important than those $250,000+ projects which are reported.
“Without more comprehensive knowledge about reconstruction projects the [Iraqi government] will not be in a position to maximize the use of its resources,” the report says.
This seems like a painfully obvious thing to say, but apparently the inspector general believes that those in charge are so out of touch they actually think that anything sub-$250,000 isn’t worth writing down.
According to the report, this ludicrous system has resulted in billions of dollars in unreported spending, something which is obviously a major problem but has somehow not been addressed since the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction was established in 2004.
In response to the report, the Assistant Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, Peter Bodde, wrote in a letter that while indeed the system currently being used is incomplete, “it does capture the vast majority of reconstruction projects and there is no other alternative that captures more.”
I would ask Bodde, how could a system in which all of the spending is reported not be considered an alternative? How would a system in which everything is accounted for not capture more?
Bodde seems to think it doesn’t really matter, saying that the reconstruction of Iraq “is now in its very last stages, and all remaining capital projects will be reported through the asset transfer process.”
It’s unfortunate that our government has become so wildly out of control, blatantly spending funds like it doesn’t matter and claiming anything under $250,000 isn’t worth reporting while there are families in America starving and living on the streets.
Way back in June of last year, I wrote an article wondering where all the money spent on war actually goes, and it is quite unfortunately apparent that we still do not have a proper answer for that.
The total lack of accountability is a systemic problem and the fact that this will likely be blamed solely on a flawed system and not the individuals actually responsible for swindling countless dollars needs to be addressed.
If people can continue to get away with this, there is absolutely no incentive for them to stop this type of behavior and I bet that we will continue to see government misconduct on a widespread level until individuals are actually held responsible and the rule of law is restored.
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