US Reconstruction in Iraq Is Failing

August 1st, 2007 - by admin

Kim Gamel / Associated Press & Andrew Bridges / AP & The Ground Truth – 2007-08-01 09:29:50

Auditor: Iraqi Government Ducks Reconstruction
Kim Gamel / Associated Press

BAGHDAD (July 28, 2997) — The Iraqi government has refused to take control of more than 2,000 US-funded reconstruction projects, a move that could jeopardize the country’s credit line and cost American taxpayers, according to a report by an American watchdog agency.

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said the government here initially agreed to take over the projects but the transfers stalled about a month after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took office in May 2006. That forced US officials to turn the reconstruction to local officials or to commit more money to keep them running.

The report, which was dated Wednesday, found that no completed projects had been transferred to the national government since June 30, 2006. It said 2,362 completed projects valued at $5.3 billion were pending as of May 31. By contrast, 435 completed projects worth $501 million had been transferred between April 23, 2006, and June 30, 2006, according to the report.

US officials have, however, formally handed 1,576 projects worth $2.6 billion to local officials despite concerns they may not be able to properly finish and run the projects.

The Washington-based agency warned that delays in transferring the projects meant less collateral for the Iraqi government in seeking loans “and could result in additional sustainment expenses for the US governmental agencies that completed the projects.” The report singled out Finance Minister Bayan Jabr, who it said had changed government conditions for the transfers, effectively halting the process at the national level in July 2006.

Jabr and other Finance Ministry representatives could not be reached for comment, and al-Maliki’s spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said he had no information about the report. A senior adviser at the Iraqi Planning Ministry, which is responsible for overseeing reconstruction programs, said the government was willing to take over completed projects unless they had immediate budget implications that would need to be addressed.

“We are in need of these projects,” said the adviser, Faik Abdul-Rasool. “If it is completed, we would be very happy to receive that project and start running it unless it has a financial implication on the budget, then this would be delayed.”

The assessment was the latest piece of bad news for a US-led war and rebuilding effort that has already cost nearly $400 billion.

Investigators said in an audit three months ago that US efforts to rebuild Iraq are so beset with daily violence, corruption and poor maintenance that Iraqis will not be capable of managing reconstruction anytime soon. Where US-funded projects are built and handed over to the Iraqis, they “are not being adequately maintained,” according to the April audit by the inspector general’s office.

Sustainability is an important factor in explaining the slow progress in a sectors such as oil, gas, water and electricity.

On the Net:
• Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction:

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.
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:Iraq Not Maintaining US Projects
Andrew Bridges / Associated Press

WASHINGTON (July 30, 2007) — An Iraqi power plant rebuilt with tens of millions of U.S. dollars fell into disrepair once transferred to the Baghdad government, according to the U.S. office that tracks reconstruction spending.

The Iraqis’ failure to maintain the 320-megawatt Dora plant, considered an important source of power for electricity-starved Baghdad, is just one of the issues hindering attempts to rebuild the country, the latest audit report to Congress concludes.

Also crippling the efforts are anemic capital spending by Iraq’s central government ministries and its provinces; continued challenges faced by contractors in fulfilling the terms of their contracts; and endemic corruption.

Such theft, fraud, skimming and other corruption amount to a “second insurgency,” the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, Stuart Bowen Jr., wrote in his quarterly report, being released Monday.

“It’s another enemy that Iraq has to fight. Security is the paramount challenge that the Iraqi government has to solve, but right behind that is corruption, particularly involving oil smuggling,” Bowen told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday.

“This report presents a mixed picture,” he said. “But it’s too early to say whether we are going to render effective, enduring results. There are signs of progress this year.”

Among those signs, Bowen said, is Iraq’s production of 2.1 million barrels of oil a day in the latest quarter, compared with 1.9 million the previous quarter and 1.8 million barrels before that. He noted that Iraq was producing more than 2.4 million barrels a day before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Despite the setbacks with the power plant, Bowen said Iraq’s electricity supply still rose to 4,230 megawatts, compared with 3,900 megawatts during the previous quarter and 3,800 before that. But that is still below the prewar level of 4,500 megawatts, he said. Just two years ago, Iraq’s electricity supply was more than 5,000 megawatts.

“Projects are getting done,” Bowen said. “But the impediment to growth in outputs of those has been insurgent attacks on the grid.”

The watchdog office provides oversight of the $44 billion allocated by Congress to rebuild Iraq. Bowen said he will testify before Congress on Tuesday about the latest report.

In an audit issued last week, the inspector general found the Iraqi government has refused to take control of more than 2,000 U.S.-funded reconstruction projects since June 2006. That has left U.S. officials to turn over the projects to local officials or to commit more money to keep them running.

Even when the Iraqi government has accepted rebuilt projects, it has let them languish.

The two units at the Dora power plant, for example, are not working despite a $90 million effort to repair them. The plant’s Iraqi operators cannibalized equipment from one of the units as it neared functioning status to repair the second, after it had failed because of improper maintenance and operation. That second unit eventually failed again, according to the report.

“If this plant had been online since 2004, Baghdad would have had substantially more power,” Bowen said in the interview. “In addition, it’s likely that the actual power generated would be above prewar levels.”

The Dora power plant represents 7.5 percent of the electric-generating capacity today.

The problems do not rest solely with the Iraqis, according to the report.
An audit of a $1.33 billion contract won by Bechtel National Inc. found that about half the water, sanitation, power and other projects awarded to the San Francisco engineering company failed to meet their stated goals. Some were canceled, others only partially completed and others transferred to other organizations for completion, the report said.

The government, too, hampered Bechtel’s efforts by failing to provide sufficient staff to oversee the contract. Extensive use of subcontractors has made oversight difficult, leading to poor outcomes in some projects.

Even though the Iraqi government has assumed responsibility for managing the country’s recovery, its spending on public works and other capital projects is falling far short of what has been budgeted, the report said.

For instance, last year, the government spent just 22 percent of its budget for capital improvements, while spending 99 percent of the allocation for salaries. Overall spending of the government capital budget should rise to 50 percent by year’s end, the audit said.

Associated Press writer John Heilprin contributed to this report.
© Copyright 2007 Associated Press.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Successes in Iraq: How NGOs and Iraqis are Building Peace Together
The Ground Truth

(May 14, 2007) — Is anything actually going right in Iraq? If you listen to the mainstream media, you might think the country has nothing going aside from violence, hatred, corruption, squabbling and failure. But the reality on the ground is that several institutions — including Depaul University’s International Human Rights Law Institute (IHRLI), CHF International, and the American Development Foundation’s Iraq Civil Society and Independent Media Support Program (ICSP) — are seeing success in helping Iraqis strengthen civil society, improve their economy, and advance human rights and the rule of law.

On Friday, May 11th, EPIC joined representatives from over 20 distinct NGOs for an Open Society Institute-hosted event titled, “Overlooked Successes in Iraq: Rebuilding communities, strengthening civil society, and advancing human rights despite the violence.” We’ll be releasing a summary later this week detailing the specific programs and qualitative success stories described by conference participants, but for now, I’d like to highlight a few particularly interesting points from the discussion.

First, talented, educated Iraqis are never in short supply in the work of the NGOs reporting. Iraqis all over the country are excited about justice reform, improving infrastructure, and playing an active role in their communities. Only a very small percentage of people participate in violence, and many more take huge risks to be involved in change. They are passionate and dedicated despite the dangers of being associated with a US-funded venture. They are ready to identify and throw out the corrupt, and they aren’t rooted to a single position. They want and are willing to work for change.

Second, several conference participants questioned accountability measures determining which programs receive US funding.

Right now, our government seems to throw money at organizations with the sole mechanism for accountability being a return of numbers. But does it matter how many people you can claim to have helped if what you’re doing doesn’t result in sustainable development, or build the capacity for lasting change once you’re gone?

The most successful programs are those paying attention to the needs of Iraqis and giving them a vested interest in the process. But to truly determine what works and what doesn’t, we need the kind of evidence we can only get after a program has been around for years and had a chance to take root, not meaningless numbers and statistics just because they’re easily organized into talking points.

In the final Q & A period, the participants engaged in a heated debate over US funding priorities. What are Iraqis most in need of: civil society, economy or government reform? You have to have a middle class in order for civil society and government to function; you have to have civil society in order for government to be representative and an economy to function; and you have to have some level of government security in order for economic development and civil society to approximate stability. So what comes first — the chicken, or the egg?

At the conclusion of the event, I realized from the important points made by all the participants that it won’t do to focus on any one component more than the others. Iraqi government, economy and civil society are like three points of a triangle, each one essential to the integrity of the whole.

We must equally fund programs in all three fields, and use the experiences and advice of successful programs to determine future funding

The Ground Truth in Iraq is maintained by the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC) and is a part of the EPIC Ground Truth Project. Since 1998, EPIC has worked to improve humanitarian conditions in Iraq and to defend the human rights of the Iraqi people.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational advocating changes in US policy.