Reports Fault Oversight of Iraq Police Program
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
The U.S. government has squandered millions of dollars intended for police training programs in Iraq because of rampant problems overseeing contractors, according to federal reviews released yesterday.
In one case, contractors building a camp for American trainers constructed an Olympic-size swimming pool that hadn't been ordered. In another, human waste reportedly continues to leak from plumbing fixtures at a barracks for Iraqi police recruits, a year after the problem was first identified and despite assurances from the contractor that the problem was being fixed.
Together, the reports offer a revealing glimpse at one aspect of the $38 billion American-led reconstruction effort. The police training program has been repeatedly flagged by U.S. officials as particularly crucial to the war effort, given the need for effective Iraqi security forces to take over from the U.S. military. While yesterday's reports by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction do not address the training itself, they do find major flaws with how both the government and its contractors attempted to build the program's facilities.
The flaws, auditors concluded, all had common roots: The government's failure to monitor how contractors were spending taxpayer money.
But the two contracts reviewed by the special inspector general's staff produced vastly different types of problems. One of the contracts called on Falls Church-based DynCorp International to build a camp to house its trainers. Auditors found that the company performed $4.2 million worth of work that had not been authorized by the contract, including building the pool and 20 VIP trailers at the behest of Iraqi officials. Because of security concerns, the camp was never used.
At the $73 million Baghdad Police College, meanwhile, inspectors uncovered numerous examples of shoddy construction, including ones that pose potential health problems to Iraqi recruits. The problems, some of which were first reported publicly in September, had still not been fixed when inspectors returned to the site months later for follow-up inspections. Auditors said the contractor, California-based Parsons, knew about the plumbing problems as early as a year ago but failed to correct them.
"As a result, the unsanitary conditions continue," the report said.
Parsons was ultimately paid $5.3 million for substandard work, auditors found. The Army Corps of Engineers will also be paid -- up to $2.5 million -- for monitoring Parsons's work, even though auditors said its oversight was "essentially non-existent."
The inspector general's office said it would begin to investigate evidence of potential fraud connected to the project.
In response to the report, the corps said in a statement that it is "making steady progress on completing warranty repairs related to the sewer, water and electrical systems" at the police college.
In a written exchange, the corps also challenged some of the auditors' findings, contending that in one instance the leaking liquid identified as human waste was actually "dirt-filled fresh water."
Officials in the special inspector general's office replied that regardless of what the liquid is, the corps "needs to realize that the plumbing system is not only tremendously flawed, but the cadets may be supplied with hazardous water."