The U.S. government’s drive to rebuild Iraq “put billions of American taxpayer dollars at risk of fraud, waste and abuse,” and the amount misspent will never be known, according to the final report by a U.S. watchdog agency.
The report by Special Inspector for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen, released today, questioned almost $636 million in costs through June. Auditors found such lapses as “inadequate reviews of contractors’ invoices,” a lack of sufficient oversight staff and poor recordkeeping, according to the report.
The U.S. provided more than $51 billion for reconstruction projects in war-torn Iraq from fiscal year 2003 to 2011.
The report said U.S. officials failed in “numerous instances” to thoroughly review contractors’ invoices before paying them. In one case involving a State Department contract, the department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs had one contracting officer validating invoices totaling more than $2.5 billion.
“As a result, invoices were not properly reviewed, and the $2.5 billion in U.S. funds were vulnerable to fraud and abuse,” the report found. The State Department instituted stronger oversight of the contract and recovered more than $60 million that should never have been paid, the report said.