Re­port Finds Prob­lems at Iraqi Sites Built or Aided by U.S.

The Washington Post Sunday - - The Conflict In Iraq - By Dana Hedg­peth

In­spec­tions of eight fa­cil­i­ties that were re­ha­bil­i­tated or built as part of U.S. re­con­struc­tion ef­forts in Iraq re­vealed prob­lems with main­te­nance that sug­gest some such projects may not func­tion as long or as well as planned, ac­cord­ing to a fed­eral over­sight agency.

The eval­u­a­tions were con­ducted by the Of­fice of the Spe­cial In­spec­tor Gen­eral for Iraq Re­con­struc­tion, which is charged with mon­i­tor­ing projects for fraud, waste and abuse of funds. The agency will re­lease its quar­terly re­port to­mor­row sum­ma­riz­ing the in­spec­tions and giv­ing an up­date on such sec­tors as oil and elec­tric­ity.

Stu­art W. Bowen Jr., the spe­cial in­spec­tor gen­eral, said his in­spec­tors in Bagh­dad be­gan look­ing in the fall at projects that had been turned over to the Iraqis in at least the past six months to a year. His of­fice looked at eight projects across Iraq, with a to­tal cost of about $150 mil­lion, and found main­te­nance and op­er­a­tional prob­lems with seven.

The find­ings range from un­re­paired wa­ter leaks that dam­aged floors at the Camp Ur mil­i­tary base in Nasiriyah, gen­er­a­tors that weren’t work­ing at Bagh­dad In­ter­na­tional Air­port and ex­pen­sive equip­ment go­ing un­used at a ma­ter­nity and pe­di­atric hospi­tal in Ir­bil.

Bowen said that each of the fa­cil­i­ties had gen­er­ally been com­pleted as orig­i­nally en­vi­sioned but that the prob­lems found had at least, in some cases, partly im­paired the fa­cil­i­ties’ abil­ity to func­tion fully.

Bowen said he has raised con­cerns in pre­vi­ous au­dits and has told con­gres­sional lead­ers about the need for more sup­port to main­tain projects.

“Our job was not to just pro­vide them with projects but projects that made a con­tin­u­ing im­prove­ment in Iraq,” he said. “The only way to an­swer that is to visit ones that are fin­ished.”

Bowen said he ex­pects his of­fice to con­duct sim­i­lar re­views at 20 more re­con­struc­tion projects.

The re­views con­tained pho­to­graphs of the fa­cil­i­ties when re­con­struc­tion work was first fin­ished and fol­low-up pho­tos that de­picted how — be­cause of prob­lems like plugged toi­lets, leaky roofs and clogged sewer drains — parts of some sites ap­peared to be in bad shape.

At the Ir­bil Ma­ter­nity and Pe­di­atric Hospi­tal, ini­tial pho­tos showed promis­ing re­sults: mod­ern bath­rooms that re­placed fe­ces-plugged holes in the floor; hall­ways with brighter lights, new ceil­ings and new floors; an out­door in­cin­er­a­tor to burn hospi­tal waste; and a new sys­tem that could de­liver piped-in oxy­gen to hospi­tal rooms.

But af­ter the hospi­tal was handed over to Iraqis, U.S. in­spec­tors un­cov­ered trou­bling main­te­nance prac­tices. Hospi­tal work­ers weren’t us­ing the gen­er­a­tor to burn hospi­tal waste. They ex­plained to in­spec­tors that the per­son or per­sons trained to op­er­ate it no longer worked at the hospi­tal. In fact, the in­spec­tors re­ported, hospi­tal work­ers didn’t know where to find the key to un­lock the doors to the in­cin­er­a­tor build­ing.

At the same time, in­spec­tors found med­i­cal waste scat­tered on the ground in front of the in­cin­er­a­tor — hy­po­der­mic nee­dles, ban­dages, bot­tles and other de­bris that could have been con­tam­i­nated. In­spec­tors also found med­i­cal waste in the drains and sewer sys­tem, which con­trib­uted to waste­water back­ing up through floor drains and into some sec­tions of the hospi­tal.

As for the oxy­gen de­liv­ery sys­tem, hospi­tal work­ers rel­e­gated it to back-up sta­tus, con­tin­u­ing to use large oxy­gen bot­tles, some­times stor­ing them un­pro­tected in hall­ways.

In­spec­tors also ob­served hospi­tal clean­ing crews us­ing a hose and squeegee to clean halls and bath­room floors, caus­ing wa­ter to be ab­sorbed into walls and leak into floors be­low. The in­spec­tor gen­eral’s of­fice rec­om­mended that a U.S. gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive “co­or­di­nate with ap­pro­pri­ate Iraqi gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and re­quest that hospi­tal of­fi­cials en­sure that clean­ing crews use the min­i­mal amount of wa­ter nec­es­sary to clean the fa­cil­ity.”

But such rec­om­men­da­tions smacked of mi­cro­man­age­ment that could be viewed as in­tru­sive, said William Lynch, act­ing di­rec­tor of the Iraq Re­con­struc­tion Man­age­ment Of­fice in Bagh­dad. In a writ­ten re­sponse to the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s find­ings, Lynch con­tended that such “sus­tain­ment” is­sues were be­yond his or the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s author­ity or con­trol.

At Bagh­dad In­ter­na­tional Air­port, where con­trac­tor Bech­tel Na­tional was hired to in­stall gen­er­a­tors to pro­vide elec­tric­ity, in­spec­tors found that 10 of 17 gen­er­a­tors didn’t work.

In an­other case, at the Bab Shams po­lice sta­tion in the north­ern city of Mo­sul, ra­zor wire on top of a se­cu­rity wall was held in place by sand bags, in­spec­tors found. But when the sand bags moved, the ra­zor wire fell.

And at the Ba­bil Vol­un­teer Cen­ter in Hilla, which was built to process Iraqis vol­un­teer­ing to join their coun­try’s armed forces, elec­tri­cal wiring was “jerry-rigged,” bath­rooms were not cleaned and a sewage hold­ing tank was never emp­tied. “If the main­te­nance con­tin­ues at its cur­rent level, the use­ful life of the fa­cil­ity will be sig­nif­i­cantly short­ened,” the in­spec­tors wrote.

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