News Release

What Happened to $20 Billion of Iraq’s Money?


Author of the forthcoming book Iraq Inc., Chatterjee is project director CorpWatch, an Oakland-based corporate watchdog group. He has traveled to post-invasion Iraq twice to investigate reconstruction contracts. Chatterjee said today: “Will the companies that have contracts to rebuild Iraq and design democracy vanish in the middle of the night like Paul Bremer did on Monday, after having failed in their task, when the money runs out? Fifteen months after the invasion, most services have not been restored, the bills have reached astronomical proportions and Iraqis have very few jobs. Iraqi security guards get less than one percent of their foreign counterparts for the same work, the average Iraqi worker is paid $100 a month while truck drivers from the United States are paid $8,000 for work with similar skills by Halliburton. U.S. consultants provide grants of less than $100,000 for Iraqi organizations for a full year of work while paying individual expatriate employees more than that. It is small wonder that most of infrastructure is hardly improved from pre-war levels.”
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An emergencies specialist at Christian Aid, which just released the report “Fuelling Suspicion: The Coalition and Iraq’s Oil Billions,” Nutt said today: “The U.S.-controlled coalition in Baghdad … has not properly accounted for what it has done with some $20 billion of Iraq’s own money. UN Security Council Resolution 1483 of May 2003 said that Iraq’s oil revenues should be paid into the Development Fund for Iraq, that this money should be spent in the interests of the Iraqi people, and be independently audited. But it took until April 2004 to appoint an auditor — leaving only a matter of weeks to go through the books. Now the CPA is not going to be around to be held accountable. This is in stark contrast to the no less than four separate audits of U.S. taxpayer funds that are underway. Iraqi construction companies charge about a tenth of what their U.S. counterparts do…. In October 2003 Christian Aid revealed that an astonishing $4 billion of Iraq’s oil revenues and other funds were unaccounted for. Since then, the CPA has provided more information, but it is still woefully inadequate. Assessing Iraq’s oil revenue is made so difficult because Iraq’s oil production is still not being metered, as is standard industry practice. The CPA appears to have failed to prioritize a task that should form the bedrock of transparency over oil revenues…. This situation is in flagrant breach of the UN Security Council resolution 1483.”
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Tsalik is director of the Revenue Watch program at the Open Society Institute, which includes Iraq Revenue Watch. She said today: “Just before dissolving, the Coalition Provisional Authority committed billions of dollars from the Development Fund for Iraq, the UN-mandated repository for Iraqi oil revenues, to ill-conceived projects. These expenditures were allocated towards sectors for which Congress has already allocated American tax dollars — and although few would object to more funding for Iraq’s economy, there was no explanation for why the CPA rushed to commit Iraqi oil funds instead of waiting for the interim government to make these decisions.”

Tsalik added: “This is especially problematic since a preliminary audit of the Coalition Provisional Authority’s management of Iraqi oil revenues reveals serious accounting weaknesses and opportunities for corruption. The UN-mandated auditors reported serious problems of access and lack of cooperation. The auditors were denied access to audits of sole-source contracts from the DFI — which probably included the sole-source contract to Halliburton paid with Iraqi oil money. The auditors encountered bureaucratic hurdles in obtaining the passes needed to enter the ‘green zone’ where CPA and government offices are based. The auditors found that accounting lacks a double-entry system and consists solely of spreadsheets and tables maintained by a single accountant. The auditors also noted the poor reporting around dispersals made by the Commander’s Emergency Response Program and the Rapid Regional Response Program, highly discretionary programs that allow reconstruction officials based in the regions to use their judgment in giving out Iraqi oil dollars…. Transfers to CERP and RRRP are not itemized, which according to the auditors ‘greatly diminishes the transparency of the expenditures made and leaves the DFI open to fraudulent acts.'”

[Today’s New York Times reports that “of the $18 billion authorized by Congress last year (for Iraqi reconstruction), only about $5 billion has been awarded to contractors, and less than $400 million has been spent.”] [As of June 26, the CPA reported the Iraq Development Fund had collected a total of $20.5 billion since its inception, including $11.1 billion in Iraqi oil revenues and $8.1 billion from the UN Oil-for-Food Program funds and Iraqi frozen assets. Of this total, $13 billion had already been spent and $4.6 billion committed, leaving the interim government with only $2.9 billion in uncommitted funds.]

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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167