Monday, August 30, 2010

Waste, Abandonment Earmarks Iraq Construction Jobs

Billions worth of construction materials left behind in the desert

Baghdad - Of all the incomplete and unfinished projects
mentioned in the media blitz surrounding the Inspector
General's report on waste in Army construction in Iraq, the
prison in the desert at Khan Bani Saad gets the most
attention.


Stuart Bowen terms it "a bit of a monument" to the waste and seeming fraud committed by contractors and Army overseers in the "surge" program called the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund.

Mr. Bowen is the Special Inspector General for Iraq.

His harsh critique of a failed program points up $4 billion
in waste, an estimate of more than 20 percent of the $21
billion spent so far of total combined contributions of the
U.S. and Iraq of $112 billion.

Designed to hold 3,600 prisoners, the buildings sit in the
sand, tumbleweeds growing in the stacks of brick and barbed
wire left behind on the unfinished compound.

There is a sister prison compound left similarly unoccupied at
Nasiriyah.

Inspectors found honey-combed concrete beams unsatisfactory
to bear loads, brick walls out of plumb and incomplete
plumbing. The IG terms the effort a waste, a failure.

It's not the only one. There are stories of the pediatric
hospital with no staircase to the second floor, the Fallujah
sewage treatment plant with no pipes to connect it to the
city's system of wastewater conduit, and the $5.7 million
Baghdad Convention Center where the contract did not
stipulate that the structures had to be wired to the
electrical power. They sit useless, unlit, without air
conditioning or ventilation, unused and crumbling.

About 43 percent of all the contracts were terminated at one
time. Of 4,800 projects completed, 233 are nearing
completion and 595 have been abandoned.

The projects were originally funded to keep Sunni fighters
busy working for a paycheck and not fighting against U.S.
forces in the "surge" strategy of 2004.

Many projects were begun and left unfinished by a California
firm named Parsons Delaware, Inc., which completed only
about a third of 53 planned jobs.

It is true that the contractors attempted to work during the
height of the violence, dodging bullets and bombs as they
laid pipe and drove nails. Most projects that were abandoned
were terminated due to security concerns.

The Executive Summary of an IG report generated in 2007 is
filled with the classic gobbledegook of bureaucratic
politesse.

But nothing can blunt the incisive thrust of the figures.

"Background. Public Law 109-13, 'Emergency Supplemental
Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror,
and Tsunami Relief, 2005,'
May 11, 2005, provided $5.7
billion for the Iraq Secuirty Foreces Fund, of which the
Commander, Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq
received $5.2 billion. The funds were to be used to provide
equipment; supplies; services; training; and facility and
infrastructure repair, renovation and construction for the
Iraq Forces.

There was one auditor detailed to the fund and 16
comptrollers.

This compares, according to the report, with the following
commands, which operate stateside.

* U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, 8 auditors, 64 comptrollers, $3.2 billion
* U.S. Army Forces Command, 6 auditors, 47 comptrollers, $3.0 billion
* U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armanments Command, 7 auditors, 45 comptrollers, $3.6 billion.

The IG report describes the way projects were abandoned in
this way.

"Actions by the Command. According to the Comander, Multi-
National Security Transition Command-Iraq, Command has
already taken steps toward implementing the recommendations
in this report. These steps include drafting a standard
operating procedure for property accountability; partnering
with the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence to
develop a standard operating procedure to improve transfer
and acceptance of real property; reviewing and correcting DD
Forms 1354; setting up an accounting section to ensure
accurate and timely oversight of accounting processes and
documents; initiating an in-depth review of open obligations
and commitments, which has already resulted in 950 documents
being deobligated (freeing up $831 million); and working
with Defense Finance and Accounting Service personnel to
improve financial reporting, accounts payable, and cost
accounting in the combat zone. We commend Multi-National
Security Transition Command-Iraq for promptly taking these
steps to implement the recommendations."


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