Sending a Message On Reconstruction of Iraq…

Over the next few weeks and months, Common Cause will report on the administration’s contracting procedures for the reconstruction of Iraq. The reports will be a continuation of our Holding Power Accountable series, which is designed to draw attention to the misuse of power at the highest levels of government in Washington.

Mainstream media is focused on the fighting in Iraq, but neglecting the critical stories about the reconstruction efforts. Did you know that more than 100 members of Congress asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the administration’s contracting procedures in Iraq, and the agency plans a major series of reports on the issue. In fact, the GAO has already released its initial findings, but you probably haven’t heard about them because most newspapers and television networks have given the report short shrift.

Common Cause is working to bring these and other important investigations to your attention. We will be sending out reports highlighting what’s in the GAO reports. We also continue to work with Members of Congress and other organizations on ways to reform the contracting process.

Here are some of the disturbing findings from GAO:

‘ U.S .auditors found that money generated from the sale of Iraqi oil was used to award contracts to American companies without the knowledge of Congress or the Iraqi people. Almost all the Iraqi money has gone to American companies, and many of the companies, including Halliburton, did not have to compete for the work.

‘ On Aug. 18, Halliburton received its third extension from the Army to provide documentation for its expenses. A Pentagon audit found that Halliburton could not document its work in Iraq and Kuwait under an Army contract worth more than $1.8 billion, and that its system for estimating costs of specific tasks was “inadequate.” There have been at least eight spending audits done in Iraq that have been critical of Halliburton, which has more than $8 billion in contracts in Iraq.

‘ Auditors also found that “contracting officers in Iraq did not always ensure that contract prices were fair and reasonable, contractors were capable of meeting delivery schedules, and payments were made in accordance with contract requirements.”

[See GAO reports on Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Coalition Provisional Authority Inspector General audits]

Some of these findings are incredible! The Inspector General in Iraq found that payments to U.S. companies in Iraq were routinely switched from U.S. tax dollars to the less-regulated Iraqi money without the knowledge of Congress. In some cases, the shift appears to have been an effort to avoid Congressional scrutiny. For example, shortly after the U.S. Army canceled a $327 million contract with the politically well-connected Nour USA under a cloud of suspicion, the company landed a smaller contract paid with Iraqi money. A Florida company, Harris Corp., was criticized for chartering a jet to fly a Hummer H2 to Iraq for one of its managers, at taxpayers’ expense. The company was later awarded a $48 million contract with Iraqi oil money.

With your help, we must spread the word on these types of abuses in Iraq. We have been pushing for more transparency and accountability in Iraq from the beginning. Remember, some members of Congress opposed the creation of the inspector general position in Iraq, but we helped make it happen.

And with your support, we are going to make sure everyone in America knows about these abuses of power in Iraq, and – more importantly – how we can stop them.

We are heartened by your overwhelming response to our plea. We feel your outrage about this issue and understand you are eager to do something about it. Let’s smash our goal of $21,000 and help us continue to tackle this issue. Please click here (or click on the following link – this reference to the 2nd link seems unnecessary, but it’s your call) to make your contribution to Common Cause today. And please share the link by forwarding this to family and friends:

Thank you again.


Chellie Pingree

President, Common Cause