|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
The U.S. government is at risk of squandering significantly more money in an Iraq war and reconstruction effort that has already wasted or otherwise overcharged taxpayers billions of dollars, federal investigators said Thursday.
The three top auditors overseeing contract work in Iraq told a House committee of $10 billion in spending that was wasteful or poorly tracked. They pointed to numerous instances in which Defense and State department officials condoned or otherwise allowed poor accounting, repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for work shoddily or never done by U.S. contractors.
That problem could worsen, the Government Accountability Office said, given limited improvement so far by the Department of Defense even as the Bush administration prepares to boost the U.S. presence in Iraq.
According to their testimony, the investigators:
- Found overpricing and waste in Iraq contracts amounting to $4.9 billion since the Defense Contract Audit Agency began its work in 2003, although some of that money has since been recovered. Another $5.1 billion in expenses were charged without proper documentation.
- Urged the Pentagon to reconsider its growing reliance on outside contractors to run the nation's wars and reconstruction efforts. Layers of subcontractors, poor documentation and lack of strong contract management are rampant and promote waste even after the GAO first warned of problems 15 years ago.
- Pointed to growing Iraqi sectarian violence as a significant factor behind wasted U.S. dollars. Iraqi officials must begin to take primary responsibility for reconstruction efforts, an uncertain goal given widespread corruption in Iraq and the local government's inability to fund projects.
Of the $10 billion in overpriced contracts or undocumented costs, more than $2.7 billion were charged by Halliburton Co., the oil-field services firm once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.