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Rebuilding Iraq: Final report card on US efforts highlights massive waste

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Here are five of the most wasteful projects uncovered in “Learning from Iraq: A Final Report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction,” which summarized 220 audits and 170 inspection reports over nearly a decade and “painted a very grim picture of our ability to adequately plan, execute, and oversee large-scale stability and reconstruction operations.”

Water treatment

Water projects resulted in “some of the costliest US-funded reconstruction efforts in the entire program,” the report noted. Indeed, three treatment plants throughout the country cost the US government a total of $545 million.

The goal of the Coalition Provincial Authority (CPA) goal was to increase access to drinkable water to 90 percent of Iraqis. The State Department later determined “these goals to be unrealistic, because there was no baseline data on Iraq’s water and sanitation infrastructure,” the special inspector general (SIGIR) found.

As a result, in Fallujah, for example, a $30 million project tripled in cost to nearly $100 million, and only reached one-third of the homes it was originally intended to serve.

In 2005, the US government partnered with the Iraqi government to improve a dam in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, funding 21 contracts worth $27 million. When SIGIR inspectors visited the dam in 2007, they found that the project was poorly designed and that $19 million worth of equipment bought to improve the dam wasn’t being used.

Sons of Iraq

The widely hailed Sons of Iraq (SOI) program, which paid former Sunni insurgents to lay down their arms beginning in 2007, was one of the Pentagon's most widely funded programs. The US military used what were known as Commanders’ Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds to pay chiefs to keep their people off the battlefields.

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