Nine Billion Mistakes and Counting...

A report released yesterday reveals that special inspector for Iraq reconstruction Stuart Bowen, Jr. has determined that the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which governed Iraq from June ’03 to June ’04, lost track of nearly $9 billion appropriated for Iraqi government ministries due to a lack of crucial infrastructure. Nine billion dollars.

That’s $9,000,000,000.

Unaccounted for.

The official who led the CPA, L. Paul Bremer III, submitted a blistering, written reply to the findings, saying the report had "many misconceptions and inaccuracies," and lacked professional judgment.

Bremer complained the report "assumes that Western-style budgeting and accounting procedures could be immediately and fully implemented in the midst of a war."
As opposed to the magical beans method currently used by Iraq.

Now call me crazy, but perhaps the strategy to implement appropriate budgeting and accounting procedures should have been brainstormed before we rushed to war on an invented timetable, thus avoiding the chaos about which Bremer is complaining. As I recall, the wise neocon architects of the war were convinced they had accurately prognosticated exactly how the war would go, so surely they would have been able to sort out a program for setting up accounting systems in the midst of that war. Or maybe they just weren't sure where they'd put the calculators with rose petals and sweets lying all over the place.

In all seriousness, it is disturbing that it seems to have completely escaped the notice of pre-war planners that the need to set up accounting procedures would be necessary in a war-time situation. Plus, I am curious as to why there's a specific reference to "Western-style," as it indicates a cultural superiority where none should reasonably exist.

(In further unseriousness, howsabout the irony of an agency called the CPA having such magnificent accounting failures?)
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Sunday the authority was hamstrung by "extraordinary conditions" under which it worked throughout its mission.

"We simply disagree with the audit's conclusion that the CPA provided less than adequate controls," Whitman said.
See, so everything fine, and Bowen is wrong. The Pentagon disagrees with the conclusions, probably because it reflects unfavorably on their ability to provide proper oversight, communications, and security measures, so therefore, the audit is bunk.

And why not? Refusal to acknowledge reality to shift blame and avoid responsibility has worked wonders for the administration so far.
Some of the transferred funds may have paid "ghost" employees, the inspector general found.

CPA staff learned that 8,206 guards were on the payroll at one ministry, but only 602 could be accounted for, the report said. At another ministry, U.S. officials found 1,417 guards on the payroll but could only confirm 642.

When staff members of the U.S. occupation government recommended that payrolls be verified before salary payments, CPA financial officials "stated the CPA would rather overpay salaries than risk not paying employees and inciting violence," the inspector general said.
Huh. I wonder from where those insurgents are getting their funding? I mean, I know Iran has kicked in $20 million or so, but that’s chump change. With $9 billion, a resourceful insurgency can really get things done.
The inspector general's report rejected Bremer's criticism. It concluded that despite the war, "We believe the CPA management of Iraq's national budget process and oversight of Iraqi funds was burdened by severe inefficiencies and poor management."
Welcome to Democracy, Iraq!

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