Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Things Could Be Better
Iraq's basic services worse now than before war, GAO says
WASHINGTON — In a few key areas — electricity, the judicial system and overall security — the Iraq that America handed back to its residents Monday is worse off than before the war began last year, according to calculations in a new General Accounting Office report released yesterday.
The 105-page report by Congress' investigative arm offers a bleak assessment of Iraq after 14 months of U.S. military occupation. Among its findings:
• In 13 of Iraq's 18 provinces, electricity was available fewer hours per day on average last month than before the war. Nearly 20 million of Iraq's 26 million people live in those provinces.
• Only $13.7 billion of the $58 billion pledged and allocated worldwide to rebuild Iraq has been spent, with $10 billion more about to be spent. The biggest chunk of that money has been used to run Iraq's ministry operations.
• The country's court system is more clogged than before the war, and judges are frequent targets of assassination attempts.
• The new Iraqi civil-defense, police and overall security units are suffering from mass desertions, are poorly trained and ill-equipped.
• The number of what the now-disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) called significant insurgent attacks skyrocketed from 411 in February to 1,169 in May.
The report was released the same day the CPA's inspector general issued three reports that highlighted serious management difficulties at the CPA. The reports found that the CPA wasted millions of dollars at a Hilton resort hotel in Kuwait because it didn't have guidelines for who could stay there, lost track of how many employees it had in Iraq and didn't track reconstruction projects funded by international donors to ensure they didn't duplicate U.S. projects.
Both the GAO report and the CPA report said the CPA was seriously understaffed for the gargantuan task of rebuilding Iraq. The GAO report suggested the agency needed three times more employees than it had. The CPA report said the agency believed it had 1,196 employees, when it was authorized to have 2,117. But the inspector general said CPA's records were so disorganized that it couldn't verify its actual number of employees.
Seth Borenstein, Knight Ridder Newspapers