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Report claims large amounts of Iraq aid money has gone astray

 A report by Christian Aid claims billions of dollars earmarked for Iraq have disappeared, after being handed to the US controlled governing body. As the Iraq donors conference opens this morning in Madrid, Christian Aid claims that around only one fifth of the US$5 billion passed to Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) for development funds has been accounted for. Roger Riddell, Christian Aid's international director, said the situation was "little short of scandalous", and insisted the CPA's accounts be made public. He added: "The British Government must use its position of second in command of the CPA to demand full disclosure of this money and its proper allocation in the future. This is Iraqi money. The people of Iraq must know where it is going and it should be used for the benefit of all the country's people - particularly the poorest." The CPA announced yesterday that the long delayed establishment of an independent auditing board to oversee how Iraqi funds are spent will commence "very shortly", but did not specify an exact date. The Christian Aid report will increase fears among Iraqis that large amounts are being creamed off by US firms given contracts to rebuild the country. The UN transferred $1 billion from its old Oil for Food Programme to the new Development Fund For Iraq earlier this year and at the time called for an independent audit board to be established. Today's conference is aimed at securing donations from the international community to pay for the reconstruction of Iraq. Pledges that have emerged so far have fallen short of what is required to rebuild Iraq, estimated by the World Bank and the United Nations at around $36 billion dollars over the next two years alone, rising according to other sources to more than $60 million over four years. France and Germany, both of whom opposed the US led invasion, have ruled out any immediate contribution of cash or troops. To date, in addition to the $20 billion approved by the US Congress, - half of which is set to be earmarked as a loan, Japan has pledged $1.5 billion for 2004; South Korea $200 million and Canada $150 million. The World Bank has said it will lend Iraq up to $4 billion over the coming five years, while the European Union agreed to donate $233 million for one year only.