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U.S. for Iraq paid $1.5 billion too much

Staff writer |
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction issued the report on the U.S. government's $60bn reconstruction program for Iraq, finding that at least $1.5 billion is questionable spent.

The $40 million shell of an unfinished prison in Diyala province, $2 million in laundered cash pocketed by government officials and contractors in Hilla, an $80 invoice on a $1.41 piece of PVC piping, are just some of example of wasteful spending.

The report focused on the period from 2004 to 2013 and urges Congress to create the Office for Contingency Operations, which would oversee such reconstruction in the future. Such an office would be critical to better spending if, for example, the United States were to get involved in reconstruction in Syria or some other country in need of big contruction works.

"If it had existed at the outset of the Iraq program, the United States might have avoided wasting billions of taxpayer dollars," said the report, titled "Learning from Iraq."

Inspector General Stuart Bowen also used the example of potential reconstruction in Syria to explain how such an agency would prove more effective than addressing each effort as it arises.

"It's impossible to project the cost, but we do know the devastation in Syria is massive. And thus the stabilization and rebuilding of the country will take time,” Bowen said. Were the Office of Contingency Operations in existence, he added, it already would be "identifying the contractors, the personnel, the IT system, the oversight, how money would be managed, the controls... to ensure that we avert fraud, waste and abuse of the kind that we saw in Iraq."

The office would require some $25 million a year in funding, a small price compared to the estimated $200 million a year it would have saved in Iraq spending.

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