(No, this is NOT an Indiana Jones Sequel)
Yes, you read that correctly. American taxpayers have paid out $15 Billion U.S. dollars in unaccounted for or sketchily and improperly accounted for payments to "contractors" in Iraq for things there is little or NO RECORD of what was received.
The Pentagon's audit report was made public on Thursday, May 22nd, 2008. The Congressional Hearing was on the same day in D.C. before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform whose Chairman is California's own Henry A. Waxman (D).
"We don't know what we got," said Mary L. Ugone, the Pentagon's deputy inspector general for auditing when questioned by Waxman at the hearing, quotes the NY Times in their May 23rd story, "Iraq Spending Ignored Rules, Pentagon Says."
"We Were giving or providing a payment without any basis for the payment," explained Ugone.
$10.7 Billion is what the Pentagon Audit and Oversight Committee focused on, in the form of 183,486 payments made by the U.S. Army for "commercial and miscellaneous payments" that were not properly documented -- NO invoices, NO receiving reports, NO certified vouchers -- to explain what had been purchased and why. This is in violation of federal regulations governing the use of taxpayer money.
What $100 Million Dollars Looks Like
"We also estimated that the army made an additional $6.3 billion dollars of commercial payments that met the 27 criteria for payments but did not comply with other statutory and regulatory requirements," said Waxman.
"Taken together, the inspector general found that the Defense Department did not properly account for almost 15 billion dollars," Waxman said. STORY
Waxman succeeded in getting his "Clean Contracting Amendment" passed late the same week of the hearing which applies to all Department of Defense contracts. Its main points: (1) require agencies to enhance competition in contracting, (2) limit the use of abuse-prone contracts, (3) rebuild the federal acquisition workforce, (4) strengthen anti-fraud measures, and (5) increase transparency in federal contracting.
In addition, it provides a clause to protect whistleblowers. Check out the paragraph about Halliburton/KBR employees who were fired when they reported wastage. Download file
More Plundered and "Lost" Money
The Pentagon also was found to have given away another 1.8 billion in Iraqi assets "with absolutely no accountability," said Congressman Waxman.
"Investigators examined 53 payment vouchers and couldn't find even one that adequately explained where the money went."
Legislators are outraged by these disclosures. It is proof that U.S. taxpayers are deeply vulnerable to massive waste and fraud in the Pentagon's contracting system.
Oh, I get it. It sort of reminds me of a book I read once by Arianna Huffington called, "Pigs At The Trough."
By the way, if this is the first you've heard of this story, likely it's because America's Media Machine was frothing over American Idol's current winner on Friday. Of course, it's not like government corruption and outright thievery is considered very newsworthy in America's pop media any more.
Internal Controls Over Payments Made In Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt
Free Government Information
Pentagon Audit of Iraq Spending (Actual Pentagon Reports and Hearing Minutes Available Here)
That's the official title of the report. It is significant in so many ways, including that it's the first time the Pentagon itself has acknowledged their mismanagement on anything resembling this scale.
-183,486 payments made by the U.S. Army ("commercial and miscellaneous payments")
-$10.7 Billion (U.S. Taxpayer money) unaccounted for April 2001-June 2006
-An ADDITIONAL $6.3 Billion in payments had NO INFO required by federal regulations governing the use of taxpayer money (such as contact info for the agents involved in the transaction)
-Report gives NO DETAILS on roster of companies paid
-95% of payments NOT properly DOCUMENTED
-Total amount unaccounted for: $15 Billion U.S. dollars of taxpayer money
Audit was conducted by the Defense Department Office of the Inspector General, led by Claude M. Kicklighter -- who did not attend Thursday's hearing (due to "scheduling conflict" -- like what? A colonostomy?)
"The feeble accountability and spotty paperwork of the contracts examined by Mr. Kicklighter's office make it difficult to say what many of them [payments] were for, but the report indicates that many appeared to be for things as mundane as bottles of water, truck rentals, food deliveries," reports James Glanz in the New York Times.
The combat pay of the average soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq is only $7.50 a day. What's the meaning of 'support the troops' if we can't even pay them a living wage? By David Hackworth, DefenseWatch. Posted February 1, 2005.
Average Regular Pay of U.S. Army soldier in Iraq?
Let's say you're an E3 under two years on your first deployment to Iraq, right out of basic. You're not married. Your base pay would be about $1600 a month. Plus you'll receive about another $450 a month for being in Iraq. That means your annual pay is about $24000 a year. (Yahoo! Answers By Smoker06)
"The problem of our paying an equitable combat pay is the Pentagon's bottom line," says DefenseWatch editor Ed Offley (SFTT.org). "Two years ago the ink hadn't dried on the last Imminent Danger Pay [combat pay] increase when the Pentagon bean-counters were hustling to cut it."
From The Pentagon Audit released May 22, 2008
-$320.8 million U.S. dollars authorized for "Iraqi Salary Payment" by a single signature. NO EXPLANATION of what the Iraqis were paid to do. Payment indicates for 1,000. IF the paper is accurate, that means EACH Iraqi/Contractor payee received $320,800.
This beautiful specimen of evidence of Pentagon Plunder was titled "Public Voucher for Purchases and Services Other Than Personal."
-U.S. Treasury check for $5, 674,075.00. Paid to: Al Kasid Specialized Vehicles Trading Co. in Baghdad. Voucher does NOT SPECIFY WHAT FOR!
-$6,268,320.07 paid to Combat Support Associates [private contracting co., like Blackwater ]. NO explanation what for.
-$8 Million paid out for: Funds for the Benefit of the Iraqi People. NO explanation. NO details of goods/services rendered.
-U.S. spent $1.8 Billion in seized and frozen Iraqi assets. $1.8 Billion = $1,800,000,000.00.
(this $1.8 Billioin is ON TOP of the $8.8 Billion the previous audit found Unaccounted For early in the conflict that was seized Iraqi oil money and assets. That was a separate audit.)
What $1 Million Looks Like
- CASH given out in stacks and pallets.
- "Stunning lack of accountability" says the NY Times.
- At least 45 individuals are being charged with FRAUD.
MYSTERY PAYMENTS $$$$$$$$$$$$$
More U.S. Taxpayer Money Missing!!
$68.2 million to the United Kingdom
$45.3 million to Poland
$21.3 million to S. Korea
Pentagon auditors repeatedly stated they were UNABLE TO DETERMINE WHY THE PAYMENTS WERE MADE despite being asked AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN.
Those amounts had not been previously disclosed.
Rep. Henry Waxman said, "It sounds like the coalition of the willing is the coalition of the paid - they're willing to be paid."
From the Boston Globe "Soldiers Die, CEOs Prosper" by Derrick Z. Jackson 8/30/06
" There is no evidence of a contractor having a soul in the 13th annual Executive Excess CEO survey by the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, and the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy. The report found that 34 defense CEOs have been paid nearly $1 billion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
As soldiers have died in displaying personal patriotism, the pay gap between soldiers and defense CEOs has exploded. Before 9/11, the gap between CEOs of publicly traded companies and army privates was already a galling 190 to 1. Today, it is 308 to 1. The average army private makes $25,000 a year. The average defense CEO makes $7.7 million.
So, who can tell me WHERE and TO WHOM this $15 Billion of MY and MY FELLOW CITIZENS' money has gone? Anybody?
This whole scenario begs the question, WHY are we making billions of $$US dollars in payments to people in a country/region that is riddled with groups - "insurgents" - who hate us? Corruption in wartime is nothing new. But this pipeline of cash to undisclosed recipients for undocumented purposes is a nauseating reality.
People, speak up NOW! This is our future! This is our country!
More:Pentagon Audit Contractors Congressional Oversight Committee Free Government Information Pigs At The Trough
HuffPost Politics brings you the top political stories three days a week. Learn more