War profiteering: it's no secret

As we've said before, U.S. officials are well aware of the rampant cronyism and corruption surrounding contractors in Iraq -- the problem is that they won't do anything about it.

To get a sense of just how up-to-date Washington is about Iraq contracting scandals, one has to go no further than the latest report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which is posted here (pdf).

For example, the SIGIS report offers this accurate account of how much work promised by U.S. officials and contractors hasn't gotten done -- what they euphemistically call "the reconstruction gap:"

In its October 2005 Quarterly Report, SIGIR identified a "reconstruction gap," which acknowledges that -- for a variety of reasons, security being the most salient -- the U.S. relief and reconstruction program will accomplish less than originally planned. The shortfall in various sectors was caused by more than 250 reprogramming actions, delays driven by security and administrative problems, poorly managed cost-to-complete schedules, and shifting emphases in contracting and program management. Of note, another reprogramming of the IRRF occurred this quarter: $353 million was shited from the electricity and health care construction sectors into non-construction programs.

SIGIR has its hands full keeping up with the scandals. As they mention on page 185, the agency is now actively pursuing 72 "extensive investigations into alleged fraud and corruption in the use and expenditure of U.S.-controlled funds for Iraq reconstruction." That's up 15 just since January.

Meanwhile, Halliburton is preparing for its annual stockholders meeting on May 17. Usually held in the company's base city of Houston, the company has moved the meeting to the obscure town of Duncan, Oklahoma, which Reuters notes is "a city best known as a stop on the Chisholm Trail, a cattle artery of the Old West."

A Halliburton spokesman vehemently denied the move was to evade the raucous protests that have greeted the meeting in the past.