The Iraqi government has not assumed the responsibility of continuing reconstruction projects begun by the US, leaving critical infrastructure endeavors falling into disrepair, according to the latest quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen.
"My auditors found that the asset-transfer process is broken: since June 2006, the GOI (government of Iraq) has not formally accepted a single IRRF (Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund) project," Bowen writes in his letter accompanying the report.
In fact, the report concludes that the U.S. government is unilaterally ordering the transfer of many projects without the Iraqi government's consent or acceptance, leaving many in a no-man's land of management.
"The failure of the asset-transfer program raises concerns about the continuing operation and maintenance of U.S.-constructed projects," the report said. "In some cases, the United States has continued to pay for maintaining complete projects that have not been accepted" by Iraq.
Since July 2006, two months after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his cabinet were installed, the Iraq government hasn't accepted a single U.S.-constructed project, Bowen told the Washington Post. The Finance Ministry and its minister, Bayan Jabr, who was appointed under al-Maliki, changed the process of how Iraq accepts finished reconstruction projects, the report said, "effectively halting" handovers.
"There was a program in place, and shortly after Finance Minister Jabr came on is when the asset transfer got off track," Bowen said. Bowen said the Iraqis have "abandoned" the program.
It is not the first time that formerly Damascus-based SCIRI member "Bayan Jabar Al Zubeidi" aka Bayan Baqir Solagh has been at the center of controversy. He was accused of using his previous position as head of the Ministry of the Interior to run Shia death squads and torture units as well as block registrations of private security firms. Some Iraqi's are deeply suspicious of Jaber's intentions and have even accused him of using a false name.
According to the AP, a senior adviser at the Iraqi Planning Ministry, which is responsible for overseeing reconstruction programs, said the government was willing to take over completed projects unless they had immediate budget implications that would need to be addressed.
"We are in need of these projects," said the adviser, Faik Abdul-Rasool. "If it is completed, we would be very happy to receive that project and start running it unless it has a financial implication on the budget, then this would be delayed."
According to the SIGIR report, U.S. officials have formally handed 1,576 incomplete projects worth $2.6 billion to local officials, despite concerns they may not be able to properly finish and run them, but 2,362 completed projects valued at $5.3 billion were still awaiting transfer as of May 31, 2007.
The inspector general recommends the US and Iraqi governments negotiate a bilateral framework to establish the process by which assets transfers would be handled in the future.