Yet more Iraq-related lies and cover-ups, the details of which are conveniently released late Friday? What a surprise:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 29 — The State Department agency in charge of $1.4 billion in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns on its projects there and knowingly withheld information on schedule delays from Congress, a federal audit released late Friday has found.
The agency hid construction overruns by listing them as overhead or administrative costs, according to the audit, written by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress and the Pentagon.
Called the United States Agency for International Development, or A.I.D., the agency administers foreign aid projects around the world. It has been working in Iraq on reconstruction since shortly after the 2003 invasion.
The report by the inspector general’s office does not give a full accounting of all projects financed by the agency’s $1.4 billion budget, but cites several examples.
The findings appeared in an audit of a children’s hospital in Basra, but they referred to the wider reconstruction activities of the development agency in Iraq. American and Iraqi officials reported this week that the State Department planned to drop Bechtel, its contractor on that project, as signs of budget and scheduling problems began to surface.
The United States Embassy in Baghdad referred questions to the State Department in Washington, which declined to comment immediately.
The Bechtel Group is an enormous multinational building, engineering, and project management conglomerate. According to The Center for Public Integrity:
In April 2003, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced that Bechtel won a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract worth up to $680 million to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure such as schools, roads and sewers, as well as perform "institutional capacity building" to maintain the improvements and create "roadmaps for future longer term needs and investments." The contract had been awarded after Bechtel and five other companies, including Fluor, Louis Berger Group, Parsons and Halliburton's Kellogg, Brown & Root, were privately selected by the agency to bid. The contract also allows indemnification of the company against chemical or biological weapons, mines and other perils, according to the contract, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity through the Freedom of Information Act. In September 2003, USAID announced that, due to the poor infrastructure and deteriorating stability in Iraq, Bechtel would receive an additional $350 million on the contract, raising the contract's potential ceiling to $1.03 billion.
USAID was heavily criticized for conducting the contracting process outside of public view. USAID spokesmen said the agency used an exemption from federal contract procurement regulations that allowed it to limit competition for contracts in cases where open bidding would impair foreign aid by slowing down operations.
$1.03 billion of our taxes to fund Bechtel's Iraq contract alone, and things aren't finished yet--not by a long shot. Hmmm...I wonder how those rebuilding efforts in New Orleans are going?