Iraq rebuilding efforts plagued by persistent failures

Newly released assessments by the General Accounting Office and the inspector general of the defunct Coalition Provisional Authority show ongoing problems in U.S. efforts to manage programs to rebuild Iraq.

Persistent security failures, shortages of key personnel, poor management, improper recordkeeping and contracting problems all have hampered efforts to stabilize Iraq and put the country on a path to free elections, the reports found.

In the reports, released the same week that U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer ceded governing authority to an interim Iraqi government, GAO and IG auditors examined security issues, the restoration of essential services, and management of the $58 billion in grants, loans, assets and revenues from various sources that have been directed to reconstruction.

Auditors from both agencies describe insufficient transparency in management of some reconstruction funds, and cite significant personnel management problems within the CPA. The IG noted in a report on personnel management, one of three studies of CPA operations issued on June 25, that the organization did not even have an accurate count of civilian personnel assigned to its operations in Baghdad, with possibly more than 100 employees unaccounted for.

In a GAO report issued this week (GAO-04-902R), auditors chronicled a series of management failures at the CPA, as well as broader strategic issues that have continued to undermine progress in reconstruction.

Many of the shortcomings in the CPA-led effort stem from the deteriorating security situation in Iraq. As conditions worsened throughout 2003, the CPA abandoned plans to fully staff offices across Iraq to assist with rebuilding and the political transition. The authority's small field presence was further hindered by the stringent security measures it adopted, which made it virtually impossible for CPA staff to travel freely outside the coalition's heavily fortified office complex in Baghdad, known as the Green Zone.

Some agencies supporting the CPA, including the Homeland Security Department, found that working conditions made it impossible for employees to perform their duties, and withdrew their staff from Iraq, GAO found.

Ordinary Iraqis throughout the country felt the brunt of the security situation. State Department opinion polls conducted in Iraq in January and June found that the majority of residents in five Iraqi cities named safety and security issues--ranging from street crime to sectarian conflict and large-scale attack--as their greatest concern.

One of the most vexing problems for the coalition has been restoring electricity, which is key to reviving Iraq's economy, supporting critical infrastructure, and improving daily life for Iraqis.

According to the GAO report, "electrical service in the country as a whole has not shown a marked improvement over the immediate postwar levels of May 2003 and has worsened in some governorates. For example, in May 2003, seven of Iraq's 18 governorates had 16 or more hours of electricity a day, but as of late May 2004, only one governorate in northern Iraq was at that level."

Security concerns have significantly delayed the electricity restoration program, which is being managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, because it has been impossible to get employees and materials to some project sites. Security-related costs are consuming nearly 18 percent of total project spending, the report shows.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.