Wed, Jul 28, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Envoy says it may take time to track Iraqi oil revenues

AP , UNITED NATIONS

The UN controller chairing an oversight body for Iraq said it may take more than a year to establish a system to track how much oil is being produced there.

Controller Jean-Pierre Halb wachs, who chairs the International Advisory and Monitoring Board, made the comments on Monday after briefing UN Security Council members on an audit of Iraq's oil revenues that was released on July 15 in Washington.

The audit, prepared by accounting firm KPMG, revealed a lack of adequate financial controls and an inability to get information on large non-competitive contracts, including one awarded to Halliburton.

It also cited concerns about an inability to track how much oil is being produced in Iraq and a lack of proper internal controls on the money being spent.

Halbwachs said the US-led coalition, which ceded sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government last month, had been working to establish a "metering" system. But the UN controller predicted that the problems with developing such a system would take about 18 months to resolve.

"There were no meters to measure the oil ... and therefore there could be no guarantee that all the oil could be accounted for," he said, stressing the problem existed under former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein as well.

Germany's ambassador to the UN, Gunter Pleuger, said the report did not cover all areas of concern regarding the use of Iraqi oil resources and finances under the US-led occupation.

"It is necessary to provide full transparency of how the Iraqi oil resources have been used," he said.

"That kind of transparency in our view is also necessary to induce foreign investment in the country," he said.

The board is composed of officials from the UN, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.

It was authorized by the UN Security Council in May last year to monitor the operations of the Development Fund for Iraq, which was designated as the recipient of Iraq oil revenues and assets of the previous government frozen by various countries.

The UN and the US Congress are conducting separate investigations into allegations of corruption in that program, which was designed to provide humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people from economic sanctions imposed during Saddam's presidency.

The KPMG audit, which covered the period from May through December of last year, showed US$10.3 billion had been put into the fund, with US$5.6 billion of that coming as a transfer from the UN Oil for Food program.

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