BBC News – 2007-10-25 00:03:53
Official Quits over Iraq Security
The man in charge of security for US diplomats in Iraq has resigned after heavy criticism of how foreign private security firms in Iraq are supervised.
US state department official Richard Griffin did not mention the issue in his resignation letter. But he left just a day after the department moved to strengthen government oversight of the firms. The changes were prompted by the deaths of Iraqi civilians in an incident involving the Blackwater company.
At present, foreign private security contractors have immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law but the Iraqi government is reportedly preparing a bill to make them accountable locally.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters news agency that the bill was being discussed in the cabinet and would be submitted to parliament “soon”.
Mr Griffin supervised the diplomatic security bureau at the state department in Washington. On Tuesday his boss, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, accepted the terms of an internal report which identified an urgent need for tougher oversight of the private firms which currently protect State Department and some other US employees in Iraq.
The biggest and best-known of the companies is Blackwater.
The Iraqi government accuses Blackwater of killing 17 innocent civilians in Baghdad last month and says it wants the firm out of the country. The head of Blackwater denies the killings were unprovoked, insisting his men had been fired upon.
Since the incident five weeks ago the extensive use in Iraq of private security has become highly controversial in America, the BBC’s Vincent Dowd reports from Washington.
This week’s state department report said there have been serious lapses in how the firms are supervised. It is clear it was September’s incident in particular, and the questions it raised in Iraq and the US, which led to Mr Griffin’s sudden departure after 36 years in government service, our correspondent says.
For its part, the state department will hope a change at the top will start to restore confidence in the way America carries out and supervises diplomatic protection in Iraq, he adds.
US-Iraqi Contract ‘in Disarray’
(October 23, 2007) — A $1.2 billion (£590m) contract for training Iraqi police was so badly managed that auditors do not know how the money was spent, the US state department says. The programme was run by a private US company, DynCorp. It insists there has been no intentional fraud.
Auditors have stopped trying to audit the programme because all the documents are in disarray and the government is trying to retrieve some of the money.
Training Iraqis to take over security is a key part of US strategy. Correspondents say this case is the latest to highlight problems linked to private companies being awarded lucrative government contracts in Iraq.
Olympic Pool and VIP Trailers
The US government audit, due to be released in Washington, says the state department cannot say “specifically what it received” for most of the money paid to DynCorp, the largest single contractor to the department.
DynCorp had won a contract to provide housing, food, weapons and specialist training for Iraq’s police force in February 2004.
But some of its spending included the acquisition of a $1.8 million X-ray scanner that was never used, and the $4 million purchase of 20 VIP trailers and an Olympic-size swimming pool with money intended to fund an Iraqi police compound.
Stuart Bowen Jr, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), blamed the problems on long-standing contract administration problems within the state department office that awarded the contract.
He said “lack of controls” and “serious contract management issues” within the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) made it “vulnerable to waste and fraud”.
Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said it could take the state department up to five years to review invoices and demand repayment from DynCorp for unjustified expenses.
“This scenario is far too frequent across the federal government,” he said. DynCorp had been asked to improve its management of government-owned equipment in Iraq twice before.
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