Thursday, March 16, 2006

Iraq's missing Reconstruction Dollars

In last night's Newnight on BBC 2, Peter Marshall investigated how allegedly up to 50 billion USD of Iraq reconstruction funds is unaccounted for or has disappeared. The funds were drawn from Iraq and allocated to American companies involved in reconstruction efforts, companies providing security services etc.

The Newsnight film, called "Iraq Three Years On" can be seen via this link.

According to those involved in supervising the procurement process, control and accountability were totally lacking, allowing for no-bid contracts to companies like Halliburton and Bechtel, as well as to new, inexperienced, "tailor made" companies like Custer Battles. The film is worth watching for many reasons but certainly to watch one of the latter's partners, Scott Custer, get philosophical about what a contract actually means to him. Precious little it would appear. For one particular contract regarding airport security, Custer Battles demanded and obtained 2 million USD cash up-front (of the 17 million USD value contract); to start operations in a sector they appeared to have little, if any experience in. They were awarded the contract on the basis they were the only ones willing to take it on...

Scott Custer, when shown one of Custer Battles' contracts during a hearing:
"I don't know what the contract thinks it means."
Come again??

Custer & Battles have in the mean time been closed down and ordered to pay 10 million USD in damages.

In another case an American company secured a 15 million USD contract to build a cement factory in Iraq. The company was unable to fulfil its obligations and the factory was eventually built by an Iraqi company for 80,000 USD...

War profiteering? More like state-condoned grand larceny by the looks of it. To the victor go the spoils...

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