Honey, I shrunk the Iraqi treasury!A few days ago, the independent commission investigating the scandal in the UN's oil-for-food program issued its second report. The panel accused the ex-head of the program and the program's procurement officer of corruption.
Earlier this year, an audit by the US government's inspector-general revealed that $8.8 billion had gone missing during the reconstruction of Iraq. $8.8 billion. $8,800,000,000.
I misplace a $20 bill and I'm turning my apartment upside down to find it. But $8.8 billion? Even by Washington standards, that's a lot of money. How much money do you have to be spending in the first place in order to simply 'lose track' of $8,800,000,000?
The $8.8 billion that vanished under the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority [CPA] was money that came primarily from... you guessed it, the former oil-for-food program. Also included in the total were oil sales and seized assets -- all Iraqi money. The audit did not examine the use of U.S. funds appropriated for reconstruction.
If that much money vanished from the presumably smaller pool of Iraqi money, I can't fathom how much American taxpayer money has fallen into a mysterious black hole.
CNN added: Auditors were unable to verify that the Iraqi money was spent for its intended purpose. In one case, they raised the possibility that thousands of "ghost employees" were on an unnamed ministry's payroll.
"CPA staff identified at one ministry that although 8,206 guards were on the payroll, only 602 guards could be validated," the audit report states. "Consequently, there was no assurance funds were not provided for ghost employees."
[There's a similiar story over at Fox News, if you trust them more]
This is either incompetence or corruption. These are precisely the sorts of things for which conservatives demand Kofi Annan's crucifixion. How many demanded Bremer's head? Or that of his boss for tolerating it?
Of course, one of the big differences between the UN and the Bush administration is accountability. When the allegations of corruption in the oil-for-food program surfaced, Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered an investigation. He ordered an independent investigation even ended up being critical of him (clearing him of personal misconduct but severely criticizing his management style), his staff, even his son.
Annan has lifted the diplomatic immunity of the procurement officer and most believe he'll do the same for the program's former head. It is expected that the officials will be indicted by local US attorney. This is right and proper. If they accepted bribes or were otherwise corrupt, they should be thrown in jail.
By contrast, the man in charge of Iraq when the $8.8 billion disappeared, Paul Bremer, wasn't punished. He won't be indicted. No conservatives have demanded his public stoning. Far from it. Instead, he was given the presidential medal of freedom. That's how the president views accountability.
The man in charge of the oil-for-food scandal had has immunity lifted and will almost certainly be indicted. The man in charge of the Iraq funds scandal was given a medal. I'm not sure if that says more about Kofi Annan or George W. Bush.