The Bush administration was mistaken when it bragged about successful reconstruction projects in chaos-mired Iraq as first-hand visits discovered crumpling and non-operating facilities that cost millions of dollars, the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has found.
"These first inspections indicate that the concerns that we and others have had about the Iraqis sustaining our investments in these projects are valid," Stuart W. Bowen, told The New York Times in an interview published Sunday, April 29.
Bowen's office, a federal oversight agency, found for the first time that seven of eight reconstruction projects the administration had declared successes were actually breaking down.
The projects inspected were located in different parts of the country and covered a variety of fields including a maternity hospital, barracks for an Iraqi Special Forces unit and a power station for Baghdad International Airport.
At the airport, inspectors said nearly $12 million had been spent on new generators, of which $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning.
At the maternity hospital in Arbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was found standing idle.
The waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.
The newly built water purification system was not functioning either.
The office blamed both the US government, on the one hand, for not including in its rebuilding budget enough of the costs for spare parts, training, and other elements that would enable projects continue to function once they have been built.
It also criticized the Iraqi government, on the other, for negligence and indifference.
The office said the sampled projects, which cost about $150 million, are only tip of the iceberg of the roughly $30 billion worth US reconstruction projects in Iraq.
The findings came only few months after the US Senate voted to save the office from closure in October 2007.
Analysts say the Bush administration had sought to close the office as it became a thorn in its side with almost non-stop revelations about reconstruction failures or corruption.
The Iraq reconstruction process has long been marred by scandals and mishandling.
Over eight billion dollars that was supposed to be spent on rebuilding war-scattered Iraq under the 2003 Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) disappeared by the time US Civil Administrator Paul Bremer left his post in 2004.
The New York Times reported on April 24 that a Halliburton's subsidiary, that was awarded a $2.4 billion no-bid contract, had mishandled the construction of a key pipeline crossing, which was presumed to be the main link between Iraq's rich northern oil fields and the export terminals and refineries.
Last Mod: 30 Nisan 2007, 15:14
In the Dark
Experts say that the rebuilding program is typical of others adopted in developing countries, which keep the public in the dark and do not involve them in the planning effort.
"What ultimately makes any project sustainable is local ownership from the beginning in designing the project, establishing the priorities," Rick Barton, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research organization in Washington, told the Times.
"If you don’t have those elements it’s an extension of colonialism and generally it’s resented."
Barton, co-director of the CSIS's post-conflict reconstruction project, who has closely monitored rebuilding efforts in Iraq and other countries, says said the American rebuilding program had too often created that resentment by imposing projects on Iraqis or relying solely on the advice of a local tribal chief or some "self-appointed representative" of local Iraqis.
Four years on after the US-led invasion, Iraqis are largely seen sliding from bad to worse.
A UN report said on February 18 that a third of Iraq's 26 million people now live in abject poverty.
The report by the UN Development Program (UNDP) and an Iraqi government agency said that the living standards of Iraqis have been deteriorating after a thriving economy in the 1970s and 80s.
Worse still, the oil-rich country has been gripped by a bloody cycle of violence that claims the lives of dozens day in and day out.