A former Iraqi official, Salam Adhoob, previously a chief investigator for Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity, estimated yesterday that more than $13 billion meant for reconstruction projects in Iraq was wasted or stolen through elaborate fraud schemes.
While many of the projects audited "were not needed -- and many were never built," he said, "this very real fact remains: Billions of American dollars that paid for these projects are now gone."
Adhoob said he reported the abuses to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an agency charged by Congress with helping to root out cases of waste, fraud and abuse.
Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), who chairs the committee, said that "taxpayers have been bled dry with massive misuse of public dollars. It is all pretty sobering," he added later. "Our country cannot continue to be blind or oblivious to what is happening."
Adhoob, who worked for three years at the Iraqi agency and oversaw 200 investigators and other employees, said he had a "firsthand, up-close look at corruption" and eventually had to flee the country because of death threats.
Investigations by Iraqi oversight agencies also found that some of the money sent to the Defense Ministry was diverted to al-Qaeda in Iraq, Adhoob said, and deposited into banks in Jordan and elsewhere.
[Excerpt of an article by Dana Hedgpeth, The Washington Post]