Sunday, October 01, 2006

VOTER WARNING : Gutknecht eline misleading

Allow me to prefix my commentary with a little background. I worked in the accounting field for over 20 years, being involved with acquisitions, auditing, writing operational manuals, negations of multi-million dollar contracts and I have provided cost analysis to the Department of Defense. But more importantly, I am a citizen who is concerned about the financial future of the country.

Consequently, I pay attention to how my elected representatives act and what they work on. In my January 27th commentary , I wrote in response to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) report that stated U.S. reconstruction efforts have been plagued by problems & fraud, and that projects will not be completed :
Being fiscally conservative myself, Gutknecht advertises that he should be an elected official that I would be pleased with. Sadly, with increases pending in the Federal Debt Limit, and the continuation of budget deficit spending, he has disappointed. When the question "should America liberate Iraq?" was first asked, the other question should have been "who is going to pay for it?" Will we pay or will our grandchildren still be paying? Mismanagement of spending is making the problems worse.
Is it too much to ask a Congressman who sits on the House Reform Committee to look into what happened to Iraq's $37 billion in oil-financed reconstruction funds ? How about looking at Halliburton, the giant oil services firm, which received $1.6 billion in DFI money for fuel and oil field repairs that Pentagon auditors say it overcharged the government by $218 million.

So eight months later, Gutknecht finally issues a response as a Footnote in his eline of 9/29/06 :
NOTE: My Government Reform Committee held its seventh oversight hearing. At the insistence of House conservatives, money was authorized for additional auditors for money spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. Troubling reports are coming out concerning waste and mismanagement. We need to hold people accountable. We intend to hold more hearings in the months to come.

On the surface, Gutknecht’s comment may seem to indicate a Congressman leading the charge to ensure fiscal responsibility and proper Congressional oversight.

At a minimum, his comments are misleading.

This is the first full committee hearing on Iraq Reconstruction during this Congress ... and it essentially occurred during the last week before another "re-election campaign" recess. Iraq is too important of an issue that the full committee has not met to address the reconstruction problems. Based on continued media reporting of problems, discussions at the subcommittee level are not accomplishing anything.

Second, the Democrats have been clamoring for investigations not only of the Iraq Reconstruction, but also of the waste related to Homeland Security Contracting and Hurricane Katrina Relief. Based on Gutknecht’s comment that the additional auditors is a result of the “insistence of House conservatives”, I can only assume that the Republican House Leadership of Dennis Hastert and John Boehner are to blame.

Gutknecht’s one paragraph comment is insufficient to understand the enormity of the problem. But if you read the GAO report and SIGIR reports that are part of the Committee on Government Reform hearing, every taxpayer would be alarmed at the ineptness of this Congress to manage our monies.

The Government Accountability Office identified a record $3.5 billion in questioned and unsupported contractor charges in Iraq. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction comments on the dilapidated facilities at the Baghdad Police College, which the Army and the Parsons Company spent $75 million to build and cannot be used to train recruits because "feces and urine rained from the ceilings" of barracks. [Note : I have previously referenced the Parsons Company’s performance in ]

An example of the waste and mismanagement is to reconstruction of the healthcare system in Iraq. The Basrah Childern’s Hospital Project was authorized for $50 million with a target completion date of March, 2006. It was revised to be completed by July 31, 2007 at a cost of $98 million. The current SIGIR audit report states “the actual turnkey cost for the project will be about $149.5 million to $169 million.” The overall Primary Healthcare Center project began in 2004 with a goal of 150 centers at a cost of $243 million. Despite an expenditure of $186 million, the government has now revised the contract to only 20 centers of which six have already been completed.

In the oil sector, the Bush Administration has spent 2 Billion Dollars and yet the oil production is, at best, meeting pre-war levels.

In the electricity sector, the Bush Administration has spent 4 Billion Dollars and is still only achieving 81 % of the desired output.

These failures do not just impact the reconstruction progress, but also the entire effort in Iraq. How can we change the mindset of the Iraq citizens when we display such incompetence?

I will agree with one comment that Gutknecht makes – “We need to hold people accountable.”

So voters, let’s remember to hold Gutknecht accountable.

Accountability and Oversight are sadly missing from this Congress.

Related Links : FINAL HGR Testimony - 09-28-06.pdf


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