Were a little bit different because were looking over a pot
of money being handled by the Department of State and the
Department of Defense, said Ginger Cruz, the deputy special
inspector general for Iraq Reconstruction, in a lecture Monday
afternoon in the Integrated Science and Technology building.
In a policy-driven speech geared primarily for international
affairs and political science students, Cruz and Stuart Bowen, the
special inspector general for Iraq Reconstruction, talked about the
purpose and role of the inspector general in the reconstruction of
Iraq and the future of reconstruction projects.
When I was there a rocket had exploded about 100 meters to my
left, said Bowen, who has been on 29 trips to the war-torn
country. Its a tough place to do stabilization
After the fall of Iraqs dictator Saddam Hussein on Dec. 15,
2003, the focus of United States operations in Iraq turned from
combat to reconstruction efforts, Bowen said.
Since then, the US Congress has allocated $56.81 billion for
the reconstruction of Iraq, according to the October 2010 SIGIR
quarterly report. The purpose of SIGIR, according to Cruz, is
twofold: to audit the allocation of the nearly $60 billion in
taxpayer dollars and make critical recommendations about Iraq
reconstruction policy to eliminate wasteful taxpayer spending.
When you do 170 audits and spend seven years asking questions,
inevitably you begin to see patterns, Cruz said. Weve built a
lot of things but its not 50 to 60 billion dollars worth of
Those patterns turned into policy recommendations and lessons
about efficient ways to rebuild Iraq. SIGIR has identified a theme
lacking in long-term planning and strategy, weak communication with
Iraqis and little inter-governmental organization integration.
When you really start thinking about the scope, heres an
office that cuts out more than the new constrained budget is
doing, said Scott Dudley, a junior international affairs major,
comparing the savings of SIGIR and the House Republicans budget
proposal for fiscal year 2011.
Karim Altaii, an Iraqi native and integrated science and
technology professor, sees the reconstruction effort in Iraq as
unsuccessful because of a lack of accountability and oversight.
When it comes to spending money, many entities in Iraq tell you
how much they spent and where but theres no accountability,
Altaii said after the lecture on Tuesday. Where did the money go,
how is it spent and is it effective?
Through its audits and program critiques of reconstruction
programs, SIGIR specifically identified a poor anticipation of
problems associated with construction in a volatile country.
If youre going to build a water plant in Iraq, youre going to
get shot, Cruz said of hypothetically building a $30 million water
treatment facility. Pretty soon youre going to spend $200
million. Is it worth it?
While this was just a hypothetical situation, SIGIR audits have
identified, and in some instances, halted funding for construction
projects like the Fallujah water waste system and the Khan Bahni
A lot of times we just built things to just build things, Cruz
said. We found a lot of waste that didnt result in a political
In Fallujah, the water waste treatment facility grew into a
six-year project costing more than $90 million, about three times
the projected cost and the $40 million Khan Bahni Saad prison
project was never finished.
The Iraqis call it the whale in the desert, Bowen said of the
Jordan Descovich, another international affairs major, found the
grand scope of money wasted surprising.
Thats a lot of taxpayer money and its been spent poorly in
the past and those people are doing their best to really stabilize
Iraq, said Descovich, a junior.
While SIGIR primarily conducts audits of reconstruction
projects, it also has the power to launch criminal investigations
Through those prosecutorial powers, the organization has
recovered approximately $140 million in cash from criminals, many
of whom are either military or government contractors, who defraud
To aid in SIGIRs investigative powers, the Attorney General
allows the organization to use its own attorneys to speed up
investigations and indictments, rather than use the typical
Department of Justice prosecutors, Bowen said.
As of November 2010, SIGIR investigations relating to
corruption, wasteful spending and fraud have led to 31 arrests, 54
indictments and 44 convictions, according to the October 2010
We need to find a system that will plan and execute so we dont
waste the taxpayer dollars, Bowen said.
That system, Bowen believes, is legislation soon to be
introduced in the US Congress as a proposal to create a central
department or the US Office for Contingency Operations. That
office would coordinate the efforts of multiple agencies, audit and
criticize reconstruction efforts and create a doctrine for
Theres no responsible agency to take the lead, Altaii said.
When it comes to accountability, everybody is pointing the finger
at each other.
Cruz said other countries, like Great Britain, Germany, Canada,
Australia and Sweden, have created offices and specific doctrines
for reconstruction planning and resource allocation.
In support of the USOCO policy proposal, Bowen has testified
before Congress to advocate for legislation that would create a
permanent department to oversee all reconstruction operations.
If you look at the issue of stability operations, right now the
United States government doesnt have the capacity or capability to
put together their best effort to tackle these issues, Cruz
Contact John Sutter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Program Critiques