Billions of dollars in Iraq reconstruction projects may be wasted as the U.S. transfers them to the Iraqi government, warns a U.S. watchdog.
“There remains a vulnerability that thousands of projects” completed with $51 billion in American reconstruction funds “will not be sustained and thus fail to meet their intended purposes,” Special Inspector for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen said Friday.
“The record of what the U.S. built in Iraq and what we transferred to Iraqi control is full of holes,” Bowen said.
Bowen first warned of a “sustainment gap” in 2007, saying the Iraqi government wasn’t capable of performing the long-term operation and maintenance of projects funded by U.S. taxpayers. Today “it remains unclear whether” the State Department “will engage in any further follow-up,” Bowen said in prepared testimony.
One reason is that the withdrawal of U.S. forces combined with violence outside Baghdad makes visits to check on projects risky and costly, he said.
“To make a movement outside the embassy grounds requires 48 hours of notice, three hardened vehicles and ... shooters in each vehicle, and limited time on site to carry out your mission,” Bowen said.