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Friday, December 9, 2016
Christian Aid vindicated over 'Iraq's missing billions' report
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¬†An official US audit has unearthed evidence of widespread corruption in postwar Iraq, finding that the occupying authorities failed to keep track of nearly $9 billion (£4.8billion) of Iraq's oil and other revenues. In October 2003, a Christian Aid report, Iraq: the missing billions, warned that at least $4 billion of Iraqi money earmarked for reconstruction had gone missing. At the time, this accusation was vigourously denied by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the US-controlled body that ruled Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. But in June 2004, as the CPA was being wound up, another Christian Aid report revealed that as much as $13 billion was unaccounted for. In a scathing new report to Congress, Gen Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction, said that while the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was careful to monitor the spending of US taxpayers' money in Iraq, it failed to provide proper oversight of projects paid for with Iraq's own funds. Christian Aid's research exposed how this financial black hole was in flagrant breach of the United Nations' resolution that established the CPA. Resolution 1483 stipulated that all Iraqi oil and other seized funds must be used to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people and to finance the rebuilding of Iraq's shattered infrastructure. In its two reports, Christian Aid also argued that the situation was fuelling suspicions that oil money was being creamed off for the benefit of US companies. In turn this was adding to frustration and resentment among some Iraqis, said the reports, potentially fuelling violence. They also called on the British government to ensure that the money was properly spent. The new Bowen report blamed the CPA for failing to keep track of the disbursement of development funds from Iraq's oil revenues, the Oil for Food Programme and seized assets. The report said: '..there was no assurance the funds were used for the purposes mandated.' It cited an Iraqi ministry that claimed to employ 8,206 guards, when there were in fact barely 600. At another Iraqi ministry, financial controls of a $435 million budget were left open to 'fraud, kickbacks and misappropriation of funds,' the Bowen report said. "It is clear that the monitoring and accounting systems were dysfunctional, and set a precedent for corruption that continues to this day," said David Phillips, a former State Department adviser on Iraq. "The number is staggering but the pattern of cutting corners has been well known from the beginning, and there has been an awful lot of cash floating around." The report was bitterly criticised by the former CPA chief Paul Bremer, who said it was unfair to expect proper accounting practices at a time of unrest in Iraq. This contrasts with Mr Bremer's statements in answer to Christian Aid's October 2003 investigation, when he said the CPA was going to open its books. Then he told reporters: "We are going to be completely transparent the funds are spent for the Iraqi people," he said. "I have absolutely no qualms about it, I don't think we have anything to apologise for. There are no secrets about it." Asked whether Christian Aid's criticisms were unfounded, he replied: "Yes, correct." Source: Christian Aid
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