May 16, 2007

"The connections burst ... and the sewage thus leaked from the bathroom down through the building and into light fixtures and through the ceilings."

How much American money has been squandered building things like this in Iraq?
A series of investigations, led by Stuart Bowen, the special inspector-general for Iraq Reconstruction, has found the reconstruction effort are riddled with waste, fraud, corruption, and shoddy construction. Bowen told NPR's All Things Considered about one particularly bad construction site he investigated — a $75 million dollar police training academy, built by Parsons [Corporation, a California company that had $1 billion in construction contracts].

"Essentially when they put in the plumbing, they had no fittings, so they just joined plumbing pipes, cemented them together," he said. "The connections burst once they started to be used and the sewage thus leaked from the bathroom down through the building and into light fixtures and through the ceilings."
Plumbing without fittings in a $75 million building that is flowed with sewage, into the light fixtures and through the ceilings.

25 comments:

hdhouse said...

stay the course. damn those naysayers.

peter hoh said...

NPR: Why do those people hate America?

Hoosier Daddy said...

Since the housing boom went bust here, maybe some of those undocumented out of work construction guys can go there and show them how to do build stuff right.

Mickey said...

*clears throat
a lot of mexicans are in construction

Mickey said...

...and from what i hear(?rumor) the plumbers were women.

John Stodder said...

I don't think Harry Truman was regarded as unpatriotic for leading hearings into war profiteering during WWII.

Instead of trying to micromanage the actual war itself -- something Congress is laughably incompetent to do -- why aren't congressional democrats focusing on identifying the individuals and corporations responsible for these abuses, and holding hearing to get them on the record for future criminal and civil prosecution?

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

Without knowing some detail on what the plumbing was made of, I can say that in some instances cement is an appropriate substitute for connections.

The caveat is the pipe. If it was cast iron with a large bell fitting (usually connected with a rubber gasket nowdays, but oakum and lead were used in the past) or clay, which is usually connected with cement, no problem.

If it was PVC and cement was used on the outside of teh pipe to try and seal the flat joint; totally unacceptable.

I also need to know who was doing the labor. It is possible we had Iraqis using modern American materials they were unfamiliar with.

This doesn't excuse the American contractors lack of oversight, or the waste of taxpayer money, but I've seen too much bashing on NPR based on out of context "facts" to blanketly believe anything they proclaim.

Balfegor said...

Bowen told NPR's All Things Considered about one particularly bad construction site he investigated — a $75 million dollar police training academy, built by Parsons [Corporation, a California company that had $1 billion in construction contracts].

I agree with Stodder above -- there ought to be an investigation into this kind of thing. Who headed the construction project? Who was their foreman? Who made the decision to go ahead without fittings (or whatever this error was)? Were they using local Iraqi labour? Did they push decisonmaking authority down to the native level? Are there regional factors that complicated the project, such as a failure to understand local custom, or a language problem? Does the company lack particular areas of expertise? -- I understand, for example, that there are special problems associated with performing large-scale construction in primitive areas, with unskilled local labour, and that Western construction companies often lack that expertise, with the result that the Chinese companies have come to dominate the construction markets in many undeveloped countries, as in Africa.

Roost on the Moon said...

why aren't congressional democrats focusing on identifying the individuals and corporations responsible for these abuses, and holding hearing to get them on the record for future criminal and civil prosecution?

I think that would be difficult, given the administration's assertion that it would have been "naive" to attempt to impose "western accounting practices".
Cold cash doesn't leave much of a trail, even when it's $12,000,000,000.

AlphaLiberal said...

I was appalled when I heard that, too. Gee, do you think the contractors were paid for such "shitty" work?

What do you expect when the occupation staff are hired based on their ideological correctness, rather than competence? Or when the reconstruction is a seen as a boondoggle for the private firms?

Stuart Bowen has done good work there and exposed a lot of rampant corruption under the Bush Command.

Balfegor said...

I think that would be difficult, given the administration's assertion that it would have been "naive" to attempt to impose "western accounting practices".

Well, it would certainly be naive to expect the companies to follow GAAP, if they're using native accountants without foreign training, but the fact that the administration says so needn't be the end of the story. I think at least one of the big four (PwC, E&Y, KPMG, Deloitte) has/had an office in Iraq, so it's not like there's a total absence of accounting and audit expertise in the region. There's also, surely, offices in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain. Probably not quite up to the standards back home, but certainly serviceable. If there was a total failure to maintain adequate books and records, I'm sure that must be some kind of violation for contractors of the Federal government.

Cold cash doesn't leave much of a trail, even when it's $12,000,000,000.

The cash has to be withdrawn from particular accounts -- it can't just be magicked into existence. Those would probably be accounts maintained in civilised countries with computer systems keeping track of the money. If it's a US company like Parsons, the disbursements from the company's cash accounts should be linked in some way with their general ledger system. If you can identify the principals involved in the management of the Iraq construction project, you can interview them to determine which accounts might potentially have been involved. Next, ID the people with authority to make withdrawals and interview them, to determine what uses they put the money to.

The money may have disappeared, but it may well be possible to identify who sent it out, and to whom.

AlphaLiberal said...

There have been investigations. This is actually an old story.

And, the Bush Command tried to fire Bowen for his efforts, but he was restored by a bipartisan effort in Congress. What's that tell you?

It's hard to get more corrupt than George W Bush.

AlphaLiberal said...

The cash has to be withdrawn from particular accounts -- it can't just be magicked into existence.

You guys act as if this is late-breaking news. Surely, as well-informed as you pretend to be, you would know that Congress already held hearings into it.

Granted, it didn't get the play that, say, a Democrat's haircut gets.

Story
US Congress incredulous at $4bn cash sent to Iraq on pallets
JEREMY PELOFSKY IN WASHINGTON

GIANT pallets loaded with cash amounting to more than $4 billion (£2 billion) and weighing a total of 363 tons were sent to Baghdad aboard military planes shortly before the United States gave control back to Iraqis, it has been revealed to Congress.

The money, which had been held by the United States, came from Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food programme and frozen assets belonging to the ousted Saddam Hussein regime.



Next thing, you'll say you didn't know about Commander Codpiece's own oil-for-food scandal.

Roost on the Moon said...

The cash has to be withdrawn from particular accounts -- it can't just be magicked into existence. Those would probably be accounts maintained in civilised countries with computer systems keeping track of the money.

Nobody is saying they don't know where it came from, or that it was magicked into existence. We didn't lose it before it was cash.

"It's hard even now to imagine $12 billion in hundred-dollar bills, wrapped into bricklike bundles, then put on huge pallets and brought over by troop carrier airplanes to be dispersed in a war zone," Waxman said.

It doesn't sound like this money was being stored in accounts.

"We have no idea where that money went. Of the $12 billion, $8.8 billion is unaccounted for," he said.

Roost on the Moon said...

(Sorry about the unfortunate bold on the Waxman quotes. It won't happen again.)

paul a'barge said...

told NPR's All Things Considered...
Well, you lost me right there. Given any mention of NPR, I skip to the next blog entry.

Someone needs to investigate the waste of government money going to NPR first. Why are my tax dollars going to pay for crap dripping from my radio speakers. Then worry about crap dripping from some Iraq building.

Balfegor said...

You guys act as if this is late-breaking news. Surely, as well-informed as you pretend to be, you would know that Congress already held hearings into it.

You may have completely missed this, I suppose, but as far as I could tell, we were talking about incompetence and misallocation by US firms operating in Iraq, with money allocated to them through the reconstruction fund, as distinguished from Iraq's oil fund, or frozen accounts held by Saddam Hussein. The article you link to is focussing on the latter:

The money, which had been held by the United States, came from Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food programme and frozen assets belonging to the ousted Saddam Hussein regime.

For perhaps obvious reasons, that's not going to show up on a U.S. company's general ledger until it gets paid to their local representatives in Iraq, after they form a contract with Iraqi ministries or whatever, and then it may never show up -- they may simply not report their contract, or report it inaccurately, so they can skim extra out of it. It's still possible to try and track that kind of thing, but much harder.

Cash disbursed to US companies by US authorities from the allocations made by Congress, on the other hand, such as the billions we've put into the reconstruction fund, should be reflected more fully in the company's accounts, because the contracts were formed with the US government, and should have been reported and vetted accordingly. Once the cash is transferred to the Iraqi theatre, it's again going to be difficult to track, but since (at least as far as I understand), the US companies involved have not established independent subsidiaries in Iraq to perform the reconstruction work, they should still be managing the money through the US ledgers. Of course, local mismanagement and bribery and whatnot will occur. But tracking should still be possible, except where books and records are unavailable. And where books and records are simply unavailable (e.g. because they just paid everything in cash and wrote nothing down), and the contract is with the US government (e.g. the USAID-Bechtel reconstruction contract), I'm sure that's some kind of violation of federal law, and the executives involved should probably be prosecuted. Some contractors have already been prosecuted, I think, although not many.

Fritz said...

It is so easy to criticize, especially for the Six Sigma 20/20 hindsight Party. Like Iraq's new democracy, a single election vs our 109 elections, the infrastructure we take for granted in the United States does not exist. Parts we order overnight may take months to obtain in Iraq. The pressure to make progress has led to this. Considering New Orleans is run by Democrats, that is the pot calling the kettle black. I remember Democrats criticizing about Iraqi security forces didn't have their weapons yet; they were being processed through the 90 day bid process. Get'er done might benefit Halliburton in some way!

AlphaLiberal said...

Fritz, many of us were criticizing the corrupt occupation long before now.

But a key point is this; Conservatives keep saying to give the occupation yet another chance and that things will get better. But the corruption and it's consequent incompetence shuold be enough to tell us it won't get better.

Because Commander Codpiece and his gang can't shoot straight. They don't admit any failings or own up to shortcomings or any adult behavior that would allow us to fix this.

You'd have a much stronger argument for prolonging the occupation if there was some honesty or integrity shown by the Bush Command. There is none.

Just ask Alberto.

Balfegor said...

Because Commander Codpiece and his gang can't shoot straight. They don't admit any failings or own up to shortcomings or any adult behavior that would allow us to fix this.

Yes, that Stuart Bowen fellow, Deputy General Counsel and Assistant General Counsel for Bush II when he was Governor in Texas; then Deputy Assistant to the President, Special Assistant to the President, Associate Counsel, Deputy Staff Secretary, for Bush II when he became President; and for the past three years Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction . . . yes, that man has just covered it all up hasn't he? Won't admit a single failing in the reconstruction process. Nope.

hdhouse said...

Stay the course. No reason to cut and run.

Sigivald said...

If you could refrain from "Bush Command" and "Commander Codpiece" preaching-to-the-choir-can-I-get-a-witness talk, Alpha, you might actually get taken seriously.

As it is, however, I take you about as seriously from the left as I take someone who says "dimocrats", from the right.

Which is to say, basically, not at all.

A substantive point does not require pet names and gee-aren't-I-clever snarkiness; this was just as true when people on the right called President Clinton "Slick Willie" as when you call President Bush "Commander Codpiece", and I judge you similarly.

(It seems you're far more eager to get an attack in than to make sure it's appropriate and relevant.

Shall we pretend for even a moment that a President whose party started with "D" would be able to rebuild Iraq without contractor waste and local corruption?

No, I can't even pretend that with a straight face. The problem with Iraq reconstruction is not the President or his party; nothing you've said has been the slightest argument that it is.

Your assertions that the President is corrupt in this context have not been substantiated, either. Guilt by association and assertion are not the tactics of someone with a strong factual basis, in my experience.)

TMink said...

Don't cut and run, cut them and make them bleed. This is gross fraud and the people who ripped you and me off to do this should be fined and jailed.

This is a Democratic led investigation taht I could really get behind. Who is holding hearings on it?

Trey

Tim said...

"It's hard to get more corrupt than George W Bush."

And the evidence he profited from this is what, exactly?

PatCA said...

Isn't this the same story that ran months ago? Of course it's terrible. Government buildings are always a mess. (Years ago everyone here was warned against lingering at the county building as its decorative concrete slabs had a habit of slipping loose and crashing to the ground.) But I guess it's a good thing if they can't come up with something new. It's terrible but it doesn't mean the war is lost, no matter how fervently the left hopes for that.