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New Report Details Reconstruction Failures in Iraq

Billions of U.S. dollars have been invested in improving Iraq's infrastructure since 2003, but the effort has been beset by problems. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen discusses his latest report.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Building a new Iraq was supposed to go hand in hand with the U.S.-led war to depose Saddam Hussein, but the effort has been beset with problems, including questionable planning, poor construction, corruption, and an absence of security, impacting billions of dollars in investment.

    The special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction has issued his 13th and latest report on the program. It focused on several showcase projects that went awry under Iraqi management. The inspector general, Stuart Bowen, joins us now.

    Welcome back to the program.

  • STUART BOWEN, U.S. Special Inspector General:

    Thank you. Good to be with you.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Let's start with these eight projects. These were projects that had been considered a success, turned over to Iraqi management, and yet you found problems in seven of them. What kind of problems?

  • STUART BOWEN:

    The issue is sustainment, whether the Iraqis, once they receive U.S. projects, are able to continue to operate them and maintain them effectively.

    I feel part of my job, in assessing and accounting honestly for the U.S. taxpayers' investment in Iraq, is to go look at projects that the Iraqis have taken charge of, and thus I initiated this regime. And we found this quarter, in the eight sites we visited, that seven had problems.

    Now, they were generally operating, but they had problems onsite, like at the Irbil maternity hospital, the incinerator that had been installed to address medical waste was not being used. The water treatment facility was not being used. The oxygen provision system was also not being used. These were expensive and important upgrades to the hospital that the Iraqis simply chose not to incorporate.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And why is it happening? Who is responsible for the problems that you saw?

  • STUART BOWEN:

    Well, once a project is handed over to the Iraqis' management, then it is their job to ensure the continuing operations and maintenance. But the sustainment issue is one that the U.S. management has been addressing over the last 18 months and investing hundreds of millions of dollars in it, that is ensuring that there's proper training, sufficient staff, sufficient follow-on contracts to maintain these projects.

    It's a combination of responsibility in certain instances wherein inadequate investment has been made in sustainment and inadequate oversight is being exerted by the Iraqis.