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US wasted billions in Iraq with few results: inspector

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

After invading Iraq ten years ago, the United States spent $60 billion on a vast reconstruction effort that left behind few successes and a litany of failures, an auditor's report said Wednesday.

The ambitious plan to transform the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein has been marked by half-finished projects and crushed expectations, according to the final report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen.

The aid effort was plagued by in-fighting among US agencies and an improvised "adhocracy" approach, with no one clearly in charge of a massive investment that was supposed to put Iraq on a stable footing, said the report to Congress.

"Management and funding gaps caused hundreds of projects to fall short of promised results, leaving a legacy of bitter dissatisfaction among many Iraqis," it said.

Some of the reconstruction money was stolen, with a number of US military officers and contractors now imprisoned for fraud, while other funds remain unaccounted for to this day, it said.

Of $2.8 billion in Iraqi oil revenues handled by the US Defense Department, officials could not produce documents accounting for the use of about $1.7 billion, including $1.3 billion in fuel purchases, it said.

The lengthy report highlighted some of the worst examples of mismanagement and graft and included interviews with senior Iraqi and US officials who mostly regretted the outcome of the reconstruction program.

"The level of fraud, waste, and abuse in Iraq was appalling," Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, was quoted as saying.

She was "especially angry when she learned that some reconstruction money found its way into the hands of insurgent groups," the report said.

Both Iraqi and US officials agreed that the Americans ignored the advice of Iraqis or never bothered to consult them before launching costly projects, with sometimes disastrous results.

The litany of failures included a new police academy with raw sewage leaking through ceilings, a subcontractor charging $900 for a control switch valued at seven dollars and a project to build large prison in Diyala province that was eventually abandoned, despite an investment of $40 million.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130306/us-wasted-billions-iraq-few-results-inspector