RECONSTRUCTION

U.S. Wasted $5B in Iraq

As the war in Iraq draws to a close for combat troops, audits from a U.S. watchdog agency have revealed that billions of dollars have been wasted on abandoned and incomplete infrastructure projects. More than $5 billion—10 percent of the $50 billion spent on reconstruction—has been wasted, according to the audit, and some say this amount could be an underestimate. Col. Jon Christensen, the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers, said the federal agency has completed more than 4,800 projects and is rushing to finish 233 more, while some 595 projects have been abandoned, mainly due to security reasons. One of the biggest examples of the wasted money is a huge prison complex on the road from Baghdad to Khan Bani Saad—the Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $40 million contract to a global construction firm, Parsons Corp., in 2004 to design and build a prison—but the prison had been abandoned due to escalating violence and the Army pulled the plug on the contract in 2006. In many cases, Iraqis said they were never consulted on these projects and then in the end, shouldered the cost after the Americans abandoned them. A number of success stories stick out, however, including a “state-of-the-art” children’s hospital in Basra.