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Millions of Iraq Reconstruction Aid Wasted, Inspector Says

Rising sectarian violence has hindered Iraq reconstruction efforts, and millions of dollars were wasted, investigators said Wednesday. Stuart Bowen, the special investigator general for Iraq reconstruction, discusses the findings of his audit.

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  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The violence that plagues Iraq every day has taken a huge toll in lives, but it also has disrupted ongoing efforts to rebuild a shattered nation.

    In the nearly four years since the U.S. invasion, Congress has appropriated $21 billion for reconstruction, 80 percent of which has been spent, and now the president wants a further $1.2 billion.

    The man charged with auditing how that money is spent is Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. His reports have been harsh indictments of the reconstruction efforts and a catalogue of the challenges it faces.

    The inspector general's reports so rankled some members of the then-Republican-controlled Congress last year that House legislation was drawn up that eliminated his office. That effort later was thwarted by Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins.

    Last night, Bowen released his 12th quarterly report, and the results were much the same as before. The lack of security remains the major problem, interfering with rebuilding. Corruption continues to plague Iraq, limiting the Iraqi government's own reconstruction efforts. Infrastructure still is vulnerable, and electricity and oil production remain below pre-war levels.

    Bowen's report gave a mixed review on projects that have been completed. The inspector general found some successes in important projects, such as this rehabilitation center in Kurdistan, a women's clinic near Baghdad, and a water storage facility in Nineveh province.

    But as reported since last summer and re-verified in November, the plumbing in the Baghdad police college was so ineptly installed that sewage flooded floors and leaked through ceilings.

    State Department spokesman Sean McCormack reacted to the report and commented on the Iraqi's policing of their own efforts.

  • SEAN MCCORMACK, State Department Spokesman:

    Where there have been instances of where the Iraqis have done investigations and found suspicions about fraud and abuse, those people have been held to account. They are just getting started; there are some hopeful indications there that the system is beginning to function.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Bowen's next report is due in mid-spring.

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