An audit by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that $8.8 billion dollars, money it said was probably spent on salaries, operating expenses, and reconstruction, cannot be accounted for properly. In a nice twist, part of the money came from the old Oil-for-Food program.
Notice, first, that the accusation is one of poor management and inefficient procedures, rather than the outright theft of humanitarian funds that were then shuffled around to Saddam's various supporters, as is alleged in the larger scandal. There is a huge moral difference.
Practically, however, money is still money, and $9 billion is not chump change. The Pentagon and Paul Bremer of course deny the accusations, saying that the audit doesn't take into account the outdated budgeting and fiscal controls of the Iraqi ministries that the funds were shared with, nor the extraordinary conditions of wartime. The report itself, however, does mention those very conditions:
"While acknowledging the extraordinarily challenging threat environment that confronted the CPA throughout its existence and the number of actions taken by CPA to improve the (interim Iraqi Government's) budgeting and financial management, we believe the CPA management of Iraq's national budget process and oversight of Iraqi funds was burdened by severe inefficiencies and poor management," the report concludes.I'd hate to see another full-blown investigation formed - that seems like throwing good money after bad. Nor does it seem wise to just say, well, $9 billion - it comes and it goes. Here's a proposal - couldn't one or more of the existing congressional investigations of Oil-For-Food take a look at this matter, as well?
Readers of this blog of the left persuasion (few though they may be) would probably point to my lack of hysteria over this as compared to the U.N. scandal, and they would be right. In my heart of hearts, I just trust the U.S. more than I do the U.N. There - I've laid my cards on the table.
Don't forget, tomorrow is Weekly Jackass day, and I've already named the winner(?), so be sure to check back, won't you?