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7/03/2004

Can Someone Help Me Understand This?

The AP is reporting today that of the $18.4 billion allocated by Congress for Iraqi Reconstrution, only $366 million has been spent. That's 2%. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Sun reports that almost $19 billion in revenue from Iraqi oil sales has been spent. This explanation seems inadequate:

Beth Marple, a U.S. spokeswoman in Baghdad, said the rapid spending was agreed on between the now-dissolved Coalition Provisional Authority and Iraqi officials. She said that "the unfunded needs of the Iraqi people demanded that these dollars be put to work."

U.S. authorities have not identified all the contractors hired. But they have told international monitors that some of the contracts were awarded without competitive bidding to Halliburton, the Texas-based company formerly led by Vice President Dick Cheney. Halliburton has been at the center of Pentagon and congressional inquiries

Some critics have suggested that American authorities tapped the Iraqi money to avoid the stricter controls Congress demanded on the spending of U.S. tax dollars, after reports last year of overcharges by Pentagon contractors.

"Perhaps they prefer to have the flexibility to give away contracts to whichever companies they want on whatever terms they want," said Svetlana Tsalik, director of the George Soros-funded Revenue Watch, part of the Open Society Institute. Soros, a billionaire financier, is a harsh critic of the administration and has contributed heavily to groups seeking to defeat President Bush.

In recent reports, Revenue Watch and the British-based group Christian Aid faulted the Coalition Provisional Authority for making commitments on spending of Iraqi oil revenue that will outlast the occupation. Revenue Watch referred to the spending as "the CPA's 11th-hour splurge."

Christian Aid faulted U.S. occupation authorities for failing to disclose full details of the spending. The group said the authorities may also have understated by up to $3 billion the amount of Iraqi oil revenue that went into the development fund.

 

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