Sen. Collins: Iraq Reconstruction Effort Full of Mistakes Amid Ongoing Violence

The beleaguered Iraq reconstruction effort was beset by problems from the very start and is also hampered by a long pattern of corruption in the country, a new report finds.

For several months before the war, government agencies didn't consult each other on what they were doing because their work was classified.

The report is a chronological review of American contracting and purchasing efforts starting in the summer of 2002 for post-invasion relief and rebuilding.

"It is a story of mistakes made, plans poorly conceived or overwhelmed by ongoing violence," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. "And of waste, greed and corruption that drained dollars that should have been used to build schools, improve the electrical grid, and repair the oil infrastructure."

The report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., is being presented Wednesday before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which Collins chairs.

The 140-page report starts the chronology noting there was limited coordination of contract and purchasing efforts from the summer of 2002 to January 2003. The war started in March 2003.

"This lack of coordination in early planning was attributable, in part, to the fact that much of the activity was classified," it said.

The report's recommendations include setting up single contracting procedures in such environments, setting up deployable systems ahead of time and testing them, designating a single agency to coordinate all contract activities in theater.

This report is the latest by Bowen in a number of days that detailed project delays and cost overruns in Iraq.

Bowen also said in his quarterly report released late Monday that a long tradition of corruption among Iraqi officials also hampers progress.

Corruption is "a virtual pandemic in Iraq," threatening rebuilding efforts, international aid and citizen confidence needed for a fledgling democracy, he said.

He cited an Iraqi official who estimated that corruption costs the country $4 billion a year, as well as a recent survey indicating a third of Iraqis polled had paid a bribe to get products or services in the past 12 months and that they had a "core mistrust" of the army and police.

"Unless reforms are put in place, corruption may jeopardize the political stability of the new government," said an audit included in the quarterly report.

It also said that teams being created to help local government leaders out in the provinces with the next phase of reconstruction don't have enough security or supplies or staff.

"The deteriorating security situation has had a particularly deleterious effect on the establishment of the U.S. provincial reconstruction teams," Bowen said.

Bowen's office was created by Congress and reports administratively to the departments of State and Defense as well as writing a quarterly report to Congress.