CPA/Bremer lost $9 billion?

Can you say “Oil-For-Food, part Deux?”

I just read this at the Sydney Morning Herald. (It’s dated February 1… that always makes my brain hurt)

It seems that a recent audit of the Coalition Provisional Authority has dug up a discrepancy of $9 billion.

The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) may have paid salaries for thousands of non-existent “ghost employees” in Iraqi ministries, issued unauthorised multimillion-dollar contracts, and provided little oversight of spending in possibly corrupt ministries, according to the report by Stuart Bowen, the special inspector-general for Iraq reconstruction.

“While acknowledging the extraordinarily challenging threat environment that confronted the CPA throughout its existence and the number of actions taken by CPA to improve the [interim Iraqi government’s] budgeting and financial management, we believe the CPA management of Iraq’s national budget process and oversight of Iraqi funds was burdened by severe inefficiencies and poor management,” concludes the report, which was released yesterday.

Now, the largest estimates (FoxNews and BBC) all say that Saddam sucked “over $10 billion”. And that was in the span of a decade I believe.

I’ll be interested to see just how much coverage this small “oversight” gets. Especially from all the people who insisted the UN couldn’t do the job in Iraq because they were so corrupt and incapable of transparency and all.

Update 1:

The BBC just posted a story today, err, I mean yesterday, bah, whatever.

Update 2:

JaneM expresses a common sentiment:

I wouldn’t rush to judgement, Chris. Bremer has some very common sense responses to these allegations and I doubt that the accounting irregularites resulted in malnutrition and starvation.

Three questions come up from this:

1) Did the UN sanctions cause malnutrition and starvation or did Saddam Hussein? I’m more inclined to lay more blame on the guy who gassed his citizens.

2) $9 billion is more than just an “accounting irregularity”. Like I said before, it took several years for Saddam to squander that much money away from his people, Bremer and Co. did it in a less than a year.

3) Malnutrition and Starvation or all out war, escalating terrorism and no basic services… again, hard to see the difference.

Jane continues with another common sentiment.

Besides, the UN ran out of Iraq after a few weeks saying it was too dangerous for them…after refusing protection from US military.

1) There is an obvious conflict of interest if the UN accepts direct aid from an occupying army especially when the military action they were involved in was condemned by the UN itself. This is also why so many NGOs have pulled out… you can’t be an impartial bringer of goodwill and help when you are perceived as being linked to the occupying army.

2) It was deemed “too dangerous” by more than just the UN. With no standing army and no support from the International community, the UN had no way of protecting itself. Again, like the numerous NGOs that have left, they did so because the security concerns required trumped their ability to help out in a meaningful way.

and finally…

As far as coverage is concerned, I’ll wager that more Germans and Frenchmen will hear about Bremer’s Iraqi problems than they have or will regarding Kofi Jr’s Iraqi boondoggel.

That’s something to do further research on.

I’m willing to bet that once the new Iraqi government gets on its’ feet it will go to the UN and ask for help… and it will get it, I hope that there is a resolution put forward to send military help to Iraq to stabilise the situation. Perhaps like the Afghanistan model… provide security in the capital and major cities.

Maybe in some way this will “embarass” the US Administration to realise it’s harping on Oil-For-Food does nothing for the Iraqi people and would instead expend the necessary energy to forge a new broader coalition of support.

8 thoughts on “CPA/Bremer lost $9 billion?”

  1. I wouldn’t rush to judgement, Chris. Bremer has some very common sense responses to these allegations and I doubt that the accounting irregularites resulted in malnutrition and starvation. Besides, the UN ran out of Iraq after a few weeks saying it was too dangerous for them…after refusing protection from US military.

    As far as coverage is concerned, I’ll wager that more Germans and Frenchmen will hear about Bremer’s Iraqi problems than they have or will regarding Kofi Jr’s Iraqi boondoggel.

  2. Chris

    Excellent rebuttal but still a rush to judgement. And to the more impartial observer, if the UN knew that the Oil for Food was not used by Saddam as intended but to build palaces and bunkers, etc etc which the evidence points to, then, hell, yes, the UN is culpable.

    To address the missing $9B, Iraq was in bureaucratic choas as we all well know after the fall of Saddam. Bremer says he could not wait for a gazillion depts to get set up to do their accounting properly, no computers, heck, not much electricity in order to disburse monies needed to try to get staff in place ect, ect and get some kind of infrastructure going as tenuous as it was.

    As usual, those who don’t like us are quick to accept any accusations with little or no regard for the context of the events which took place. I don’t know if some Iraqis got off with big bucks for themselves in this situation or not. I’d like to wait to see, like I am waiting for the UN Oil-for Food inquiry, what actually happened if it can be determined. It wouldn’t be the first war in which profiteers took all they could get while nobody was looking. Heck, the American Civil War is replete with Southern profiteers making out big time at the expense of their own people.

    As for the danger the UN staff were in in Baghdad, they might have been quite a bit more safe if they had elected to accept the protection that the US military offered them in the beginning. Any fool would have said a big YES but the UN wanted to make a different kind of statement. I was certainly impressed with their foolhardy decision as several very dedicated and respected UN officials lost their lives. A shame and one that could have been avoided perhaps…

  3. What I think many peope fail to truly understand is the importance of the perception of impartiality.

    Being protected by occupation forces does not lend itself well to that perception.

  4. I don’t doubt the UN will pledge support, but who other than the countries already there can support it? Canada’s military already carries a heavy peacekeeping load, and there are few other nations remaining.

  5. Interesting site Jane, I’ve added it to my RSS reader and my Blogroll on Murkyview.

    As a counterpoint… here’s a link from Le Monde. The Quintessentially Parisien newspaper.

    http://www.lemonde.fr/cgi-bin/ACHATS/acheter.cgi?offre=ARCHIVES&type_item=ART_ARCH_30J&objet_id=884685

    Unfortunate they require a full subscription to see the full essay, but they recently published an essay on the Oil for Food scandal.

    You can stick in BabelFish if you’d like.. but briefly, the summary says:

    “An Independant commision, nominated by the [UN], will investigate the “inefficient” and extravagant compensations as they relate to the programme in Iraq. Checks and balances defiled, millions of dollars lost. On inquiry pointed a finger, on Jan 10, to the lack of monitoring of the organisation in the OforF program in Iraq. This independant commision, nominated by Kofi Anna, and led by ex-president of the US Federal reserve Paul Volcker, published 58 internal audits carried out by the UN between 1999 and 2004 for the OforF programme.”

    They also have a story on Kofi Annan changing his staff, presumably due to the conflict he’s had recently.

    http://www.lemonde.fr/cgi-bin/ACHATS/acheter.cgi?offre=ARCHIVES&type_item=ART_ARCH_30J&objet_id=883531

  6. Chris thanks for the site info. I’ll check it out at home this evening. Our filters here at the office block me from a lot of sites.

    the point that the medienkritik site makes over and over is that very little is published in Germany that isn’t anti-American and pro-UN and even though a few articles might get published that don’t fit that model, the oil for food fiasco has been barely mentioned compared to the daily unrelenting barrage of negative information regarding the US.

Comments are closed.