Sat, Nov 04, 2006 - Page 7 News List

US agency governing Iraq rebuilding to close down

AFP , NEW YORK

A US agency that has exposed corruption and mismanagement in Iraq reconstruction efforts will be shut down next year, the New York Times reported yesterday on its Web site.

A little-noticed provision in a recent military spending bill signed by US President George W. Bush will close the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction in October 2007, the Times said.

The move will end an operation that has embarrassed the US government at times by exposing corruption and poor performance among favored contractors such as Halliburton and Parsons for the reconstruction contracts worth billions of US dollars.

The provision was inserted at the last minute into a large military authorization bill by Republicans in the US Congress.

"It has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers, who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation," the Times said.

The Office of the Special Inspector General has 55 auditors and inspectors in Iraq, according to the newspaper.

A number of its reports have exposed the poor performance of US companies involved in reconstruction work and one pointed out that the US military did not keep track of hundreds of thousands of weapons it provided to Iraq's military and police.

Earlier this week, the agency issued a report saying that violence, corruption and bureaucratic red tape were hindering Iraq's reconstruction effort.

"The deteriorating security situation across Iraq continues to impede progress in the reconstruction program, causing project delays, preventing travel to many sites, increasing security costs and endangering contractors' lives," the agency said in a quarterly report.

"Sabotage of Iraq's infrastructure, particularly in the electricity sector, hindered reconstruction efforts this quarter," Iraq Inspector General Stuart Bowen wrote.

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