Yesterday the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction released its latest quarterly report. Here are some of the important takeaways regarding private contractors in Iraq.
First, somewhat surprisingly, the U.S. government still doesn't know how many contractors there are in Iraq.
"Although Ambassador Beecroft told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 19 that the size of the U.S. Mission in Iraq continued to decline [According to the Ambassador, 'We're now somewhere between 13,000 and 14,000 personnel in Iraq, down from over 16,000.'] this quarter, reporting to SIGIR on the personnel totals indicated some ambiguity about actual numbers. U.S. Embassy-Baghdad reported that 16,035 persons supported the U.S. Mission in Iraq at the end of the quarter, including 1,075 U.S. government civilian employees and 14,960 contractor personnel. The Embassy said the discrepancy was due to earlier underreporting of certain staff categories."
Of the total 14,960 contractor personnel, 3,836 were providing security services, which are 1,901 less than the previous quarter. According to the U.S. Embassy in Iraq there were two reasons for this:
The Regional Security Office has been actively working to reduce the number of private security contractors by 20%.
The closure of U.S. facilities in Kirkuk and at the Baghdad Police Annex, as well as the hiring of local nationals in Erbil, has lessened the need for security contractors.
But since the number of contractors providing program support increased by 3,089 the total number of contractors in Iraq for the latest quarter was 1,188 more than the last one.
Interestingly, as the State Department now has the lead for U.S. activities in Iraq the Pentagon is using far more contractors; 8,403 as opposed to 4,154 for State, in the latest quarter.
Second, investigations into fraud are still ongoing. Since 2004, the work of SIGIR's Investigations Directorate has resulted in 97 indictments, 75 convictions, and more than $180 million in court-ordered fines, forfeitures, and other monetary penalties. Some of its accomplishments this past quarter were:
- "the guilty plea of the former chief of party in Baghdad for the United States Institute of Peace to one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, and the arrest of a co-conspirator in July by British law-enforcement authorities
- the guilty plea of a former co-owner of a U.S. civilian contracting company to one count of providing false statements to a government agency in connection with Iraq reconstruction government contracts that involved the rental of two villas and purchase of armored vehicles
- the guilty plea of a retired U.S. Army master sergeant to one count of conspiracy to accept illegal gratuities for helping Iraqi contractors gain U.S. government contracts, then purchasing U.S. postal money orders with the illegal proceeds and mailing them back to the United States
- the sentencing of a prime contractor's program manager to 27 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and restitution of more than1.1 million for conspiring to commit kickbacks, wire fraud, and mail fraud, and for filing false tax returns; and the sentencing of the program's deputy manager to 15 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and restitution and forfeiture of more than300,000 for the same offenses
- the sentencing of a civilian contractor to time served (9 months), 2 years of supervised release, and fine or forfeiture of more than815,000 for receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal kickbacks from subcontractors in Iraq"