The Washington Post

Reports faults U.S. inventory of Iraq projects

The U.S. Embassy here has provided Iraqi officials with only a partial inventory of American-funded reconstruction projects, making it more difficult for Iraqis to manage or maintain them, a U.S. government watchdog reported Sunday.

“After eight years, we still don’t have a full account of what it was we provided the Iraqis,” Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said in an interview Saturday. “They need to know what they have now, and where the gaps are.”

The incomplete list reflects poor record-keeping among various U.S. agencies that funded projects prior to the embassy trying to tally them up. “There was no unity of command, no unity of effort,” Bowen said.

The inventory listed 5,289 projects valued at about $15 billion as of June 30, 2011, according to auditors. Bowen said there were actually tens of thousands of projects valued at approximately $40 billion. Roads, schools and police stations were among the many projects built with American funds.

Bowen’s office said the U.S. State Department counted only large projects — those defined as “capital assets” that cannot be easily converted to cash. The projects had to be worth at least $250,000, have a life expectancy of five years or more, and have been funded by one of the four major U.S. reconstruction funds.

“It is unclear why projects costing less than the $250,000 threshold would not be of interest” to the Iraqi government, Bowen wrote in the report.

Many U.S. reconstruction projects occurred years ago and were done quickly by U.S. soldiers and officials as part of efforts to win over Iraqis.

In a response to Bowen’s report, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said they had negotiated an agreement with Iraq so its government could “focus its limited resources” on large capital projects. Embassy officials also cited bookkeeping of previous agencies and said the auditors’ criticisms failed to recognize that Iraq already has assumed more control over projects.

The United States “no longer carries out reconstruction projects for the government of Iraq, but rather with the government of Iraq,” wrote Ambassador Peter W. Bodde, the assistant chief of mission for assistance transition at the embassy.

Dan Morse covers courts and crime in Montgomery County. He arrived at the paper in 2005, after reporting stops at the Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun and Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He is the author of The Yoga Store Murder.

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