LONDON – Billions of dollars belonging to Iraq is not accounted for by the Coalition Provisional Authority (search), which was given responsibility by the United Nations for the country's finances, British lawmakers and aid activists said Monday.
There are glaring gaps in the handling of $20 billion generated by Iraq's oil and other sources since the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein ended last year, according to reports from the Liberal Democrats (search), Britain's third-largest political party, and Christian Aid (search).
The Christian Aid report also said the majority of Iraq's reconstruction projects have been awarded to U.S. companies, which charge up to 10 times more than Iraqi firms.
There was no immediate reaction from coalition officials to the reports.
The United Nations gave the U.S.-led coalition responsibility for the Development Fund for Iraq after the fall of Saddam in May 2003. It stipulated that expenditures must be shown to be in Iraq's best interest and that all revenue should be paid into a simple fund. But Christian Aid and the Liberal Democrats said no audit on the money was carried out until April.
"For the entire year that the CPA has been in power in Iraq, it has been impossible to tell with any accuracy what the CPA has been doing with Iraq's money," said Helen Collison from Christian Aid.
The Liberal Democrats' study cited the accounting firm KPMG, which criticized the coalition for not metering oil production and questioned its spending.
"This apparent discrepancy requires full investigation," said Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for foreign affairs.
"The cost of reconstruction of Iraq is considerable and those countries who are being asked to contribute will want to know that Iraq's own resources are making a maximum contribution," he added.