Friday, January 18, 2008

Iraq spending gap

GAO disagrees with State's fuzzy math

Buried on A16 of Thursday's WaPo, Walter Pincus reported of a dispute between the State Department and the Government Accountability Office on Iraq spending. Who you gonna trust? State run by Condi Rice, the enabling handmaiden of Bush, or the GAO? Follow the bouncing dollar signs (with emphasis added).

The Bush WH:

In a much-publicized September report on benchmarks in Iraq, the White House said that Iraqi ministries had spent about 24 percent of their capital budget through July 15, 2007, and that the government was making "satisfactory progress in allocating funds to ministries and provinces."
The administration touted the news "when Congress was debating fiscal 2008 funding for Iraq." Convenient timing, eh?

Now the GAO:
In a report this week, however, the GAO found that of their $6.4 billion budget for capital projects, the ministries "had spent only 4.4 percent of their investment budget as of August 2007," citing official Ministry of Finance reports. State Department officials told the GAO that they had relied on "unofficial" Ministry of Finance data that were more current.
[Keep reading...more after the jump.]

Clapping harder:
A senior State Department official said yesterday that more recent data collected in Iraq will show that the ministries spent far more than 24 percent of their budgets. "We are predicting that when the final tallies are done in a month or two from 2007, we will have hit and may have exceeded 60 percent of the capital budget," he said.
No, no, no! State is wrong said the GAO:
Joseph Christoff, the GAO official responsible for the report, said yesterday that his figures were reported by U.S. Treasury officials working with Iraq's Ministry of Finance. His latest numbers, which cover spending through October, show only a slight increase -- up to 8 percent of the total 2007 budget. He said the State Department is considering not just money spent on capital projects but also money allocated to such projects but not yet spent. "It is not just comparing GAO's apples to State's oranges," Christoff said. "State is including also bananas, apples and oranges."

"The discrepancies . . . highlight uncertainties about the sources and use of Iraq's expenditure data," the GAO report concluded. It added that the "strikingly large" gap between the different assessments required the U.S. Treasury to work with the Iraqi ministry "to reconcile these differences."...

...According to the GAO, the Bush administration reported that Iraq's Oil Ministry had spent $500 million of its $2.4 billion capital budget by mid-July. However, the GAO found that spending on oil capital projects reached only $270,000, according to Ministry of Finance data.
Seems everyone recognizes that Iraq's budgeting, purchasing, and accounting systems are flawed -- so FUBAR that it hinders capital projects from getting done. More curious: Deflecting the issue of what "spent" means, the anonymous State Dept. official claimed that projects are getting completed:
"Are we seeing the effects of these capital expenditures on the ground? And we are seeing it," he said. "Services are being delivered [and the] slow, downward spiral of worsening services has stopped and is starting to come back." Delivery of services, he said, is "our number one goal" in Iraq for 2008.
Someone's drinking a lot of Kool-Aid -- apparently not the GAO.

Is this a case of "falsifying" numbers to make a bad situation look better? Wouldn't be the first time that the administration employed a fuzzy math scam.

Condi's propaganda shop has obviously undertaken the mission to spin Iraq into a success story. Under the Bush WH, our State Department has transformed from a diplomatic corp into a public relations agency for its client, George W. Bush -- and by extension, the GOP during an election year.

The slap in the face to U.S. taxpayers: They're using our tax dollars to shine up Bush and the Iraqi quagmire.