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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 09:56 GMT
Iraq corruption 'costs billions'
Iraqi insurgents - file photo
Corruption is helping fund Iraq's insurgency, says a US auditor
Corruption within the Iraqi government is costing the country billions of dollars, the US official monitoring reconstruction in Iraq has said.

Stuart Bowen told the BBC that Iraq was facing a second insurgency of corruption and mismanagement.

He said Iraqi government corruption could amount to $4bn (2.1bn) a year, over 10% of the national income, with some money going to the insurgency.

Many government workers also lack the skills to manage funds, Mr Bowen said.

"This money that's stolen doesn't merely enrich criminals," Mr Bowen said.

"(It) frequently goes out to fund criminal militias or insurgents. That means lost lives for US troops."

Missing weapons

A clause in a military spending bill signed by President George W Bush three weeks ago will terminate the work of the auditor on 1 October next year.

I call it the second insurgency. This money that's stolen doesn't merely enrich criminals but frequently goes out to fund criminal militias or insurgents
Stuart Bowen
Chief reconstruction auditor

Democratic and Republican Senators have said they will fight to have the term of the Office of the Special Inspector-General for Iraq Reconstruction extended.

Mr Bowen has been critical in the past of how US money earmarked for reconstruction has been spent.

Lack of skills among government workers is another problem hampering reconstruction, Mr Bowen said.

"The estimates are that $8-10bn of Iraq's budgets will go unspent because of Iraq's lack of capacity to spend that money," he said.

Mr Bowen's audit office began operations in March 2004 and has referred 25 criminal cases to the US Department of Justice. Four have resulted in convictions.

Among its more notable findings was a report on the loss of 14,000 weapons destined for Iraqi government use.

Many of these are believed to have found their way into the hands of insurgent groups after the Pentagon lost track of them.


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