Friday, July 30, 2004

How the Post Spins Massive Corruption

Earlier this month I cited Seymour Hersh's statement that the Coalition Provisional Authority had lost $1 billion.  The story hit both The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post today.  Although both newspapers reported specific examples of massive corruption by high-level CPA officials, the Los Angeles Times' T. Christian Miller [my link is to the subscriptionless San Francisco Chronicle] pulled no punches:

A comprehensive examination of the U.S.-led agency that oversaw the rebuilding of Iraq has triggered at least 27 criminal investigations and produced evidence of millions of dollars’ worth of fraud, waste and abuse, according to a report by the Coalition Provisional Authority’s inspector general.

The report is the most sweeping indication yet that some U.S. officials and private contractors repeatedly violated the law in the free-wheeling atmosphere that pervaded the multibillion-dollar effort to rebuild the war- torn country.


The report raises anew questions surrounding the occupation government under Paul Bremer, who turned over control in June to an interim government led by Iraqis.

Besides the more than two dozen criminal cases under investigation by the inspector general, approximately 35 others have been referred on to other U.S. agencies for further investigation, said James P. Mitchell, an inspector general spokesman.

How does The Washington Post's Ariana Eunjung Cha's story compare?  Punches were pulled:

Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen Jr., in a letter accompanying the report, said the findings should be looked at in the context of the volatile environment in Iraq.  "The CPA faced a variety of daunting challenges, including extremely hazardous working conditions," he wrote, adding that he believes that the occupation authority’s "many successes" should also be recognized.


The report said that the CPA comptroller created polices and regulations—"although well intended"—that did not ensure effective control over $600 million in Iraqi funds held as cash.


The audit report highlighted some progress. It noted that the CPA had made tremendous strides in opening up the contracting process to competition. In 2003, the CPA awarded 66 percent of contracts on a no-bid basis. In 2004, less than one percent of contracts were in that manner. Meanwhile, those awarded contracts through full and open competition increased from 25 percent in 2003 to 99 percent in 2004.

The CPA lost $1 billion of your money, but - hey, they had the best of intentions!

UPDATE:  smarty jones reminds me that Atrios gave a pretty good accounting of the lack of accountability at the CPA [which ironically is the acronym for both the Coalition Provisional Authority and Certified Public Accountant].