Friday, May 23, 2008

It was a free-for-all of hogs at the trough, and you got stuck with the check

Pentagon auditors from the DoD Inspector Generals office testified before the House Oversight Committee on the results of an audit conducted in $8.2 Billion in spending in Iraq, and informed congress that there was no accountability, and no way to even be sure that any service was rendered in exchange for most of the payments rendered.

In addition to the $8.2 Billion American taxpayer dollars that have been mismanaged, the report also looked at $1.8 Billion in seized or frozen assets.

The auditors found that payments of hundreds of millions of dollars would be approved by a single signature and paid out on an invoice that simply says "Iraqi Salary Payment." In another breathtaking example of the lack of accountability, $11.1 million of taxpayer money was paid to IAP, an American contractor, on the basis of a voucher with no indication of what was delivered, or if, indeed, anything was. A deputy IG for auditing was flatly critical, telling members of the committee that the absence of anything beyond a voucher meant that “we were giving or providing a payment without any basis for the payment.” been
The new report is especially significant because while other federal auditors have severely criticized the way the United States has handled payments to contractors in Iraq, this is the first time that the Pentagon itself has acknowledged the mismanagement on anything resembling this scale.

The disclosure that $1.8 billion in Iraqi assets was mishandled comes on top of an earlier finding by an independent federal oversight agency, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, that United States occupation authorities early in the conflict could not account for the disbursement of $8.8 billion in Iraqi oil money and seized assets.

“This report is further documentation of the fact that the United States had absolutely no preparation to use contracting on the scale that it needed either at the military or aid level in going to war in Iraq,” said Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“We had really allowed ourselves to become more and more dependent on contractors in peacetime,” said Mr. Cordesman, who spoke in a telephone interview on Thursday. “We were unprepared to use contractors in wartime, and all of this had an immense impact.”

The Pentagon report, titled “Internal Controls Over Payments Made in Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt,” also notes that auditors were unable to find a comprehensible set of records to explain $134.8 million in payments by the American military to its allies in the Iraq war.

The mysterious payments, whose amounts had not been publicly disclosed, included $68.2 million to the United Kingdom, $45.3 million to Poland and $21.3 million to South Korea. Despite repeated requests, Pentagon auditors said they were unable to determine why the payments were made.

“It sounds like the coalition of the willing is the coalition of the paid — they’re willing to be paid,” said Mr. Waxman, who later in the day introduced what he called a “clean contracting” amendment to a defense authorization bill being debated on the House floor. The amendment, which was accepted by voice vote, would institute a number of reforms, including new whistleblower protections and requirements on competitive bidding.

It has been a giant free-for-all on your dime, and a few people have gotten very, very rich off of this clusterfuck of a war. There has been a stunning lack of accountability, and we have been screaming about that for as long as there has been a war in Iraq, even when that got us slandered as unpatriotic.

Congress is deliberating the funding for one more year of war this very week. They need to attach accountability provisions to every fucking penny they authorize.

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