Billions more may be wasted in Iraq

The U.S. government is at risk of squandering significantly more money in an Iraq war and reconstruction effort that has already wasted or otherwise overcharged taxpayers billions of dollars, federal investigators said today.

The three top auditors overseeing contract work in Iraq told a House committee that $10 billion in spending was wasteful or poorly tracked. They pointed to numerous instances in which Defense and State department officials condoned or otherwise allowed poor accounting, repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for work shoddily or never done by U.S. contractors.

That problem could worsen, the Government Accountability Office said, given limited improvement so far by the Department of Defense even as the Bush administration prepares to boost the U.S. presence in Iraq.

David M. Walker, comptroller general of the GAO, Congress' auditing arm, said his agency has been pointing out problems for years, only to be largely ignored or given lip service with little result.

"There is no accountability," Walker said. "Organizations charged with overseeing contracts are not held accountable. Contractors are not held accountable. The individuals responsible are not held accountable."

[Excerpt of an AP article by Hope Yen]

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