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Bribes scandal hits Iraq's US administrators Print E-mail
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Robert Winnett, Nick Fielding and Mark Franchetti Baghdad THE American-led authority running Iraq is to be accused of hindering the country’s redevelopment amid allegations that officials are being bribed for key reconstruction contracts. A senior British adviser to the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), which will form the basis of the incoming administration in July, is expected this week to testify before the US Congress that the “questionable” way in which contracts have been awarded is curtailing the country’s revival. The US government has sent a team of inspectors to Baghdad to investigate allegations that contracts have been improperly awarded by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to those paying bribes, who then fail to fulfil their obligations. Other firms have been over-charging the CPA for goods and services — in some cases by tens of millions of pounds. Fears are also growing that millions of barrels of Iraqi oil are being fraudulently sold as the CPA fails to monitor oil production properly. An internal memo circulated by the CPA and seen by The Sunday Times threatens its own staff with criminal action if they are found to be improperly awarding contracts. The CPA, headed by Paul Bremer, has run Iraq since the invasion a year ago and administers more than $18 billion of American aid. It was hoped the huge financial commitment would help win over the Iraqi people. However, the way in which multi-million-dollar contracts for construction, security and telecoms companies have been distributed is now causing wide concern. Claude Hankes-Drielsma, the former chairman of the management committee of accountant Price Waterhouse who is advising the IGC, said yesterday: “There hasn’t been transparency in the awarding of contracts and allegations of corruption have been brought to my attention. “The tender process at the CPA is dealt with in unusual ways and, as a result, several key contracts which will affect the future of Iraq were made without due consultation. “The process of awarding contracts has often not resulted in Iraq obtaining the best deal. Some argue never has so much money been spent on so little.” His comments came as Tony Blair, on his return from his summit with George Bush in Washington yesterday, said that creating a working democracy in Iraq would be a huge blow to the propaganda of extremists. He said most Iraqis wanted to see their country with a democratically elected government. Many of Hankes-Drielsma’s claims are supported by a senior CPA insider, who has passed corruption allegations to Pentagon inspectors. “There is evidence of blatant corruption,” said the insider. “There has been a lack of transparency with regard to the tender and award process. People are getting an inside track.” Iraqi and western businesses complain that they are asked to make “substantial payments” to CPA officials for contracts. The director of one security firm, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “What is going on out there really is shocking. All the contracts are done with backhanders.” An Iraqi official in Baghdad said that many Iraqis were effectively denied the opportunity to bid for contracts as the process is so secretive and corrupt. “Millions are being spent everyday but there is no oversight of how and why contracts are being awarded,” he said.
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This is Keith Richardson's alternative news site. The site aims to promote Truth, Justice, a green clean healthy environment and a wildlife friendly world. It is currently focused on Foreign News and particularly the Middle East.