US's $51bn Iraq Projects at Risk, Says Inspector

Bloomberg reports that billions of dollars in Iraqi reconstruction projects may be wasted as the U.S. transfers them to the Iraqi government.

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), Stuart Bowen (pictured), told the US's House Oversight Committee:

There remains a vulnerability that thousands of projects [completed with $51 billion in American reconstruction funds] will not be sustained and thus fail to meet their intended purposes. The record of what the U.S. built in Iraq and what we transferred to Iraqi control is full of holes.

He warned that the Iraqi government wasn’t capable of performing long-term operation and maintenance of projects funded by U.S. taxpayers.

He added:

"It remains unclear whether [the State Department] will engage in any further follow-up ... To make a movement outside the embassy grounds requires 48 hours of notice, three hardened vehicles and a couple of shooters in each vehicle, and limited time on site to carry out your mission."

The State Department has about 16,000 personnel in Iraq at 14 sites, including about 14,000 contractors primarily responsible for providing logistics and protection for the other employees. The department has said it will reduce that presence to a total of 11,500 by September 30, 2013. The State Department and Pentagon are planning to spend $4 billion this year in Iraq to support the diplomatic presence.

You can view the full testimony to the Committee here, and download Inspector Bowen's report here.

(Source: Bloomberg)

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