Despite Drop In Violence, Iraq's Rebuilding Effort Suffers

Tuesday, October 30th 2007, 12:01 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Despite some declines in violence in Iraq, the shaky overall state of security is still impeding the nation's $100 billion recovery and rebuilding effort, a new report said Tuesday.

In recent months, progress has been made on some projects as the escalation of U.S. forces ordered by President Bush reduced attacks on coalition forces and Iraqis to their lowest levels in more than a year, according to the latest quarterly report from Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

But the decline notwithstanding, the report said: ``Security in Iraq continues to be a significant concern for Iraqi citizens, as well as reconstruction staff, management and contractors.''

As of the end of September, the whole reconstruction program totaled more than $103 billion _ including $45 billion appropriated by the U.S., $40 billion in Iraqi money and $18 billion pledged by other countries.

Some 60 percent of the U.S. money has been spent so far, said the report, which detailed how the money was used.

For instance, it said the U.S. has invested about $4.6 billion in rebuilding the country's power system _ a task some estimate will ultimately cost $20 billion.

``On the infrastructure front, new U.S.-financed electrical projects, a drop in attacks on the electrical grid, and improved maintenance programs helped push Iraq's electricity output this quarter to its highest levels since the 2003 invasion,'' said Bowen.

Average electricity production reached 4,550 megawatts per day because of new efficiencies, new generation capacity and fewer attacks on power lines and repair teams, especially in the Baghdad area, the report said.

But output remained below the 6,000 megawatts occupation officials set as their goal in October 2003 _ and very far below estimated demand that hovers around 8,000 megawatts.

In other essential services, the report said:

_The U.S. has invested $1.7 billion in the oil sector since 2003. In the last quarter, production was at 2.2 billion barrels a day, still below prewar levels of 2.6 billion.

Major challenges continue to be attacks on pipelines and corruption such as oil smuggling, the report said.

_The U.S. has obligated most of the $2.1 billion it is spending to help rebuild Iraq's water and sewage systems _ an undertaking expected to eventually cost more than $14 billion.

Because that money is running out, military commanders are spending more from so-called ``emergency response'' funds they get to hand out for local projects they think are important. They have spent some $530 million on local water and sanitation projects, the report said.

_The U.S. has funded more than 140 health care centers. But health remains ``a significant concern,'' the report said, particularly noting the movement of refugees in the war.

_In transportation, takeoffs and landings at Iraqi airports decreased in the last quarter and violence continued to hamper train movement, crews and track maintenance on the railway between Fallujah to Ramadi.

Though some 180 people are on the railway payroll, only 20 of them reportedly were ``working regularly.''

_The program to train Iraqi security forces _ key to reducing the need for U.S. troops there _ has received nearly $14 billion and spent more than half of it, the report said.

The U.S. effort to help Iraq repair Mosul Dam on the northern Tigris River ``has yet to yield significant improvements,'' it said.

The dam, Iraq's largest, has several problems including that it was built in the 1980s in an area that has sinkholes. Twenty-one contracts have been awarded totaling $27 million.

The report also reviewed some recently reported audits, including one that found that a $1.2 billion contract for Iraqi police training overseen by the State Department had ``serious shortcomings in the financial controls and program management practices.'' The U.S. government can't tell what it got for the money spent.

U.S. teams teaching Iraqis how to run local governments have made progress in some areas, though violence and ethnic and sectarian strife have hampered their efforts in other regions, the report said.

The Justice Department has begun prosecuting in 30 of 52 investigations by the special inspector general, whose cases have several convictions and imprisonments and $17 million in recovered money and other payments.