Before Congress gives George W. Bush an additional $80 billion for Iraq, and before his friends in the media engage in any more hand-wringing about the U.N. oil-for-food program, somebody on the right might want to start asking about the nearly $9 billion that the Coalition Provisional Authority can't quite seem to find.
The U.S. inspector general assigned to audit the reconstruction effort says that "severe inefficiencies and poor management" by the CPA make it impossible to know what has become of $8.8 billion worth of Iraqi money that the CPA once controlled. Among the problems the inspector general found: The CPA may well have been paying "ghost employees" to provide security in Iraq. As CNN reports, auditors found 8,206 guards on the payroll at one Iraqi ministry but could validate the existence of only 602 of them. Perhaps this helps explains why Condoleezza Rice insists that there are 120,000 trained Iraqi security personnel when others, like Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, put the number at around 4,000.
Former CPA chief and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Paul Bremer says the inspector general's findings are overblown and based on a lack of understanding about the problems on the ground in Iraq. In a response to the audit findings, Bremer said that it was more important to buy peace by getting money to Iraqi employees than it was to keep track of where the money was going and that it was better to live with a flawed payroll system than to "stop paying armed young men" who might have been providing security.