STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.
There was a famous moment in the Watergate scandal when two investigative reporters were supposedly told to follow the money. That's exactly what inspectors in Iraq have been doing. But when it comes to a gigantic contract for training Iraqi police, they found the money impossible to follow. The special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction examined a $1.2 billion contract. They found records in disarray at the State Department, which was supposed to oversea that contract.
NPR national security correspondent Jackie Northam has been tracking the story. And Jackie, let's follow the money as far as we can. Who got it?
JACKIE NORTHAM: Well, the contract was awarded to DynCorp International in February 2004 and it's for training services for Iraqi police. So DynCorp was to provide housing and food and security and facilities, and trainers, mostly police officers on leave or retired who were to train Iraqi police in specialized areas.
The inspector general's report says the training was conducted by DynCorp and the equipment was delivered. That's not the problem. The problem is with the paperwork, the invoices, the supporting documents, that type of thing.
The report says in some cases there were duplicate payments or expensive equipment that was purchased but was unnecessary or unused. And the report says that payments were made sometimes without checking if the work or services were completely satisfactory.
And so the State Department is trying to catch up on all this paperwork and it could take years to validate. But this is what the report focuses on, is just, as you say, how much disarray is involved at the State Department, trying to sort out all these invoices.
INSKEEP: So the $1.2 billion didn't disappear into space. The U.S. government got something for its money, but there's no way to tell exactly how much it got for its money?
NORTHAM: At this point, no. And in fact State Department officials that I spoke with said it could take up to five years, and that's with a dedicated workforce, to try to sort this out. And you know, the State Department people that I did speak with said for the most part the special inspector general's report was correct, but they felt it focused way too much on the past and not things that they've - measures they've put into place since 2006 to try to resolve these problems. They say they've done their own reviews. They've launched reforms. More importantly, they've hired people to help manage this contract, and certainly more people to work solely on trying to reconcile these invoices.
You know, when DynCorp was awarded this contract in 2004, there was one person working in the State Department bureau that handled this account. And in fact, this is just a small slice of a broader account worth over $3 billion. It was worldwide.
And so there is one person on this account. It was huge, but it's like many other government agencies. Since the war started, they've been tasked to take on these Herculean rebuilding projects in Iraq immediately and they simply didn't have the personnel or the resources to do it. They weren't geared up for it. And so what we're seeing is the result of that speed and the scale all at once. And they just weren't prepared for it.
INSKEEP: One person overseeing this huge contract on a central function of the war in Iraq, trying to train Iraqi security forces so they can take care of themselves; can I just ask what DynCorp, the private contractor, has to say about all this?
NORTHAM: Well, they said, as the report pointed out, they said that, you know, they did train these officers and that the, you know, the equipment was provided and everything else. And frankly, they say that this report is really focused on the State Department, not them so much.
And you know, the DynCorp people that I spoke with yesterday said, look, we've done our own internal audits, you know. We're trying to catch up on paperwork as well. And at one point we found, you know, a $6 million discrepancy and we actually returned a check to the State Department.
So again, you know, once the final figures are tallied up - and this could be years away - we'll get a much clearer picture of what the State Department got for their money.
INSKEEP: Okay. Jackie, thanks very much.
NORTHAM: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Jackie Northam.
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