U.S. Embassy in Iraq missing property worth millions

The supplies might be lost, they might be stolen, but the wasted money is clear-cut

Published June 2, 2010 8:57PM (EDT)

Tens of millions of dollars in federal property is missing or unaccounted for at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the largest U.S. diplomatic mission abroad, according to an internal State Department audit released Wednesday.

The report from the department's inspector general found that 159 of the embassy's 1,168 vehicles, worth $18.5 million, are unaccounted for.

The report said 282 vehicles worth $40.4 million have not been properly registered, and $2.3 million in other property, including furniture and other office equipment, is missing.

The audit doesn't say whether the missing property has been lost or stolen, but it says the failure to account for the items is unacceptable.

Auditors also found that the embassy is paying nearly $270,000 per year in charges for more than 2,000 cell phones that have not been registered to authorized users. The report said the embassy could save more than $740,000 a year by disconnecting unassigned and underused cell phones and limiting international calls.

In addition, the report said the embassy has 1,000 more hand-held radios than it is using and could save $936,000 if they were sent to posts where they are needed.

"Embassy Baghdad has had difficulty controlling and accurately accounting for its U.S. government property," said the audit, which was conducted between July and November of last year. It noted the difficulties of doing so in a war zone, a move to a new compound and frequent staff changes. But it said that the inventories should have been done.

A response from the embassy said much of the data used by the inspector general was outdated or incomplete and that steps had been taken to correct many of the deficiencies.

Aside from the missing or unaccounted items, the audit also found approximately $2.3 million worth of property stored in warehouses or shipping containers that "should be considered excess" and returned or sent to other missions.

That included 1,069 chairs worth $275,276, 631 televisions worth $451,550, 614 mattresses worth $122,418, 681 tables worth $173,899 and 563 DVD players worth $29,214.

By Matthew Lee

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Iraq Iraq War