Sunday, 8 July 2007

More Reconstruction Highlights

A few more reconstruction highlights. The first from a report in the Washington Post:
A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."

"This is the most essential civil security project in the country -- and it's a failure," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress. "The Baghdad police academy is a disaster."

This article in USA Today describes how the big infrastructure projects started being wound up in 2005, even though very few had been completed. It notes that of the $18.4 billion allocated by Congress for reconstruction in 2003, $5 billion was diverted to training Iraq's security forces. Meanwhile the costs of security of American personel involved in any project kept going up:
Originally estimated at 9% of total project costs, security costs have risen to between 20% and 30%, says Brig. Gen. William McCoy Jr., commander of the Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq.

Which would mean that the actual allocation, when adjusting for the diverted money and security costs was something like $9.38 billion - half the officially allocated amount. Its still a hefty sum, but then we've seen how that was spent.

But what about the success stories? The places and projects where things actually got built and handed over to Iraqis in working order? Well, the story there isn't too good either, as this report notes:

Of the eight projects inspected, some just six months after being declared a success by the US officials, six were no longer functioning properly, the report said.

At Baghdad international airport the inspectors discovered that $11.8m had been spent on new electricity generators, but that already $8.6m-worth were not working.

It was a similar scene at a barracks built for special forces in Baghdad where four large generators, each costing $50,000, were not working.

And at a maternity and children's hospital in Irbil a sophisticated oxygen distribution system was not used because staff did not trust it.

In the same hospital needles and bandages were tossed into the sewer system, which frequently blocked, because an incinerator installed to deal with such waste was not in use.

According to the report, this was "because those initially trained to operate the incinerator were no longer employed at the hospital" and because the door to the incinerator was padlocked and no-one knew who had the key.

And at a recruiting centre in the town of Hilla faulty wiring was rife and blocked drains had caused the bathrooms to warp, inspectors said.

The Sigir team said that the speed and scale of the deterioration was so bad that it was doubtful whether some of the projects would even survive.

Alas, not a very happy story at all.


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