US-Donated Computers for Children Missing

The U.S. military is demanding to know what happened to $1.9 million worth of computers purchased by American taxpayers, and intended for Iraqi schoolchildren, that have instead been auctioned off by Iraqi officials for less than $50,000.

Reports from Associated Press and al Jazeera say the shipment of computers intended for schoolchildren in the central Babil province was auctioned by a senior Iraqi official at the southern port of Umm Qasr on Aug. 16 for $45,700 — before the computers could be sent to the province.

"United States Division-South Commander Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks called for an immediate investigation into the actions of the Umm Qasr official to determine why computers destined for children to facilitate their education were approved for auction," said an American Milatary statement.

The port director, Talib Bayesh, told The Associated Press that the equipment had been sitting in the port for more than 90 days and that, according to the law, any items sitting in the port for more than three months without being claimed could be confiscated by the port and sold at public auction.

Transparency International's 2009 corruption perceptions index ranked Iraq as one of the world's most corrupt nations - 176th out of 180 countries.

(Sources: Associated Press, al Jazeera)

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