What are the chances that the Bush administration will be able to manage the rebuilding of New Orleans? Via Laura Rozen:
War and Piece: Iraq Reconstruction Fiasco: Compliments of the Bush administration:
The United States has poured more than $200 million into reconstruction projects in this city, part of the $10 billion it has spent to rebuild Iraq. Najaf is widely cited by the military as one of the success stories in that effort, but American officers involved in the rebuilding say that reconstruction projects here, as elsewhere in the country, are hobbled by poor planning, corrupt contractors and a lack of continuity among the rotating coalition officers charged with overseeing the spending...
But in a series of interviews, American military officers and Iraqi officials involved in the reconstruction described a pattern of failures and frustrations that Army officers who have worked in other parts of Iraq say are routine. Residents complain that the many of the city's critical needs remain unfulfilled and the Army concedes that many projects it has financed are far behind schedule. Officers with the American military say that corruption and poor oversight are largely to blame...
But American officers say there is almost no oversight after a contractor is given the job. The Army pays small Iraqi contractors in installments - 10 percent at the outset, 40 percent when the work is half done, 40 percent on completion and the final 10 percent after fixing problems identified in a final inspection. On larger projects, contractors are paid by the month, regardless of how much work is actually done.
Penalty clauses for missing deadlines are rare, and some contractors drag out their projects for months, officers say, then demand more money and threaten to walk away if it is not forthcoming...
Part of the problem is that much of the money is spent before any work is done. The International Monetary Fund reported recently that a third to half of the money paid to foreign contractors is spent on security and insurance. Importing equipment also eats up cash. Major Smith said the hospital's new boiler, for example, was being shipped from the United States.
At the maternity hospital across town, Dr. Yassin could hardly disguise her mounting frustration. She said the contractor, the Parsons Corporation, had repaired the hospital's reverse osmosis water purification equipment, but that little else had been accomplished in the five months since the renovation began.
Only one of the hospital's four elevators is working, and that is the one Parsons left in operation while the others were supposedly being repaired, she said, adding that no one is working on the elevators now. Major Smith said Parsons had completed the work but that it was so shoddy the Army would not certify the elevators for use. He said the company had since agreed to bring in elevator specialists to redo the job.
Parsons was also supposed to fix the hospital's incinerators, but it completed the work without hooking up gas lines to fuel them, Dr. Yassin said.
A Parsons spokesman in California said that all work on the hospital would be completed in November and blamed insurgent activity in the area for the delays. The hospital director, though, said that there had never been any fighting around the site, and that Najaf had been free of major violence for more than a year.