Military Lost Track of Equipment In Iraq Worth Millions, Audit Says

By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pentagon auditors said they could not account for millions of dollars worth of rocket-propelled grenades, armored vehicles, ammunition and other supplies and equipment that were to be used to train and equip Iraqi security forces, because of inadequate paperwork and a lack of oversight personnel.

A report released Thursday by the Defense Department's inspector general looked at $5.2 billion in the Iraq Security Forces Fund, which is part of the $44.5 billion U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq.

It found that the command in charge, known as the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq, couldn't provide "reasonable assurance" that the money for the Iraqi security forces was used properly and that it was protected from "waste and mismanagement."

The inspector general said the command was unable to prove that it received 12,712 of the 13,508 weapons it bought because the serial numbers were not kept when they were brought to the Abu Ghraib warehouse, and when they were sent out there wasn't adequate paperwork tracking them to a contract. The 13,508 weapons were made up of 7,002 pistols, 3,230 assault rifles, 2,389 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and 887 machine guns.

The inspector general's report follows an audit this summer by the Government Accountability Office that said the Pentagon lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005. The GAO report looked at weapons in the early part of the training and equipping program.

Gary M. Comerford, a spokesman for the inspector general, said there was "no way of telling" whether the Defense Department auditors looked at the same weapons as the GAO.

"They picked a random sample," he said. "They went in to do their own audit. Is it possible that some of the weapons could have been the ones GAO looked at? You just don't know."

The inspector general's audit also looked at a random sample of equipment purchases, worth $1.1 billion. Of $643.1 million worth of contracts for armored vehicles, weapons, ammunition, communications equipment, garbage trucks and other supplies, the inspector general was able to follow a paper trail for only 12.9 percent -- or $82.9 million -- of it. For another set of purchases, worth $438.2 million, there was an audit trail for only 1 percent.

The command unit also could not account for:

¿ 18 of 31 recovery vehicles, worth $10.2 million.

¿ 2,126 of the 2,943 generators it bought under a $7 million contract.

¿ 6 of 18 garbage trucks, valued at $700,000.

There was "sufficient documentation" for 95.5 percent of $1.2 billion worth of contracts for such things as food preparation, lodging and security and other services.

The audit was done from March to May, when U.S. commanders said there was increased violence that inhibited their ability to oversee how the contracts were managed. Commanders also said they didn't have the number of on-site auditors and comptrollers that large commands in the United States have.

The report recommended that commanders implement tighter controls for tracking spending and keeping records on how money is spent and what is bought. The Pentagon said that was being done.

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