Well, mostly thieves.
The U.S. government wasted tens of millions of dollars in Iraq reconstruction aid, including scores of unaccounted-for weapons and a never-used camp for housing police trainers with an Olympic-size swimming pool, investigators say.
The quarterly audit by Stuart Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, is the latest to paint a grim picture of waste, fraud and frustration in an Iraq war and reconstruction effort that has cost taxpayers more than $300 billion and left the region near civil war.
The audit comes as President Bush is pressing Congress to approve $1.2 billion in new reconstruction aid as part of his broader plan to stabilize Iraq by sending 21,500 more U.S. troops to Baghdad and Anbar province.
According to the report, the State Department paid $43.8 million to contractor DynCorp International for the residential camp for police training personnel outside of Baghdad’s Adnan Palace grounds that has stood empty for months. About $4.2 million of the money was improperly spent on 20 VIP trailers and an Olympic-size pool, all ordered by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior but never authorized by the U.S.
U.S. officials spent another $36.4 million for weapons such as armored vehicles, body armor and communications equipment that can’t be accounted for. DynCorp also may have prematurely billed $18 million in other potentially unjustified costs, the report said.
Bowen, whose office was nearly eliminated last month by administration-friendly Republicans in Congress, called spending waste in Iraq a continuing problem. Corruption is high among Iraqi officials, while U.S. contract management remains somewhat weak.
Bowen’s office opened 27 new criminal probes in the last quarter, bringing the total number of active cases to 78. Twenty-three are awaiting prosecutorial action by the Justice Department, most of them centering on charges of bribery and kickbacks.