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September 18, 2005

Reconstruction: Bush Style

A vow to give a desperate people a new life, better than it than it was, backed by tens of billions of dollars.

And the Bush record:

[R]econstruction projects [in Najuf], as elsewhere in the country, are hobbled by poor planning, corrupt contractors and a lack of continuity among the rotating coalition officers charged with overseeing the spending.

In Najaf it is primarily the work of the Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Agency for International Development.

They award some projects to foreign contractors, many of them American companies that hold master contracts for reconstruction work. Other projects are awarded directly to Iraqi companies, but even the American companies subcontract much of the work to Iraqis. A handful of Army reservists and civilian employees hand out cash to Iraqi contractors and try to keep track of the projects they underwrite.

But American officers say there is almost no oversight after a contractor is given the job. The Army pays small Iraqi contractors in installments - 10 percent at the outset, 40 percent when the work is half done, 40 percent on completion and the final 10 percent after fixing problems identified in a final inspection. On larger projects, contractors are paid by the month, regardless of how much work is actually done.

Penalty clauses for missing deadlines are rare, and some contractors drag out their projects for months, officers say, then demand more money and threaten to walk away if it is not forthcoming.

In the next weeks and months, we will here that we need to "suspend" or rollback government regulations to encourage "entrepreneurship" and "flexible" responses to the Katrina disaster.

But Iraq is a perfect example of what a blank check for business contractors leads to: corruption and a business ripoff of the taxpayer at the expense of the people supposedly being helped.

Posted by Nathan at September 18, 2005 06:59 AM