The Cable

Report faults State Department, DynCorp for missing $1 billion

The State Department cannot account for more than $1 billion it paid out to contractor DynCorp to train police during the first years of the Iraq war, in just one example of management shortcomings that have put at risk $2.5 billion worth of money spent on training policemen around the world, according to a damning new report.

The office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) especially laid into the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), known as the "Drugs and Thugs" bureau, in an audit released Monday, for mishandling DynCorp.

The report comes at an inconvenient time for DynCorp, which is also doing most of the police training in Afghanistan. The Defense Department, which is taking over that mission soon, will need contractor help, but sources tell The Cable that DOD is trying to exclude DynCorp from that contract competition over the company's vigorous protests.

Special Inspector Stuart Bowen told The Cable that since the problems at INL haven't been corrected in the years that SIGIR has been reporting on the bureau, his office is now working with Deputy Secretary Jack Lew, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's right-hand man on management issues in Foggy Bottom.

"Deputy Secretary Lew is a man who's very familiar and committed to financial management," Bowen said. "He committed to addressing them directly and ensuring that this time the promises of improvements occur."

"I'm concerned about INL's capacity to oversee large-scale projects," Bowen went on. "Whether the department [as a whole] has the capacity to ultimately do that still remains to be seen."

The SIGIR's report on INL contains many damning revelations, including the fact that the first $1 billion spent on the DynCorp contract was overseen by just one person, and that person simply approved the invoices without scrutiny. When challenged, INL couldn't produce the documentation on where that billion went, and is now trying to piece it together --a process that could take several years.

INL Assistant Secretary David Johnson declined to be interviewed about the report, but an INL spokesperson said that there are now three people in Iraq overseeing DynCorp's contract there, with four more on the way this year. The spokesperson said there is now a process in Washington to check invoices that had saved $9 million, but SIGIR isn't satisfied.

"INL continues to exhibit weak oversight of the DynCorp task orders for support of the Iraqi police training program," the report states. "INL lacks sufficient resources and controls to adequately manage the task orders with DynCorp.  As a result, over $2.5 billion in U.S. funds are vulnerable to waste and fraud."

INL disputes that $2.5 billion of funds are "vulnerable."

The report also calls into question the relationship between INL and DynCorp in Iraq. Apparently, INL was involved in negotiating leases and building rentals for DynCorp in the Baghdad international zone that somehow resulted in exorbitant rates that kept going up every year. DynCorp then just put that all on INL's tab and charged the bureau 11 percent extra in fees to boot.

The report is filled with examples of abuse and waste by DynCorp that INL paid for. In one example, $450,000 was spent to rent two generators when there were already plenty of generators to go around.

The report also details at length how SIGIR raised staffing and contract management issues with INL several times since 2005. Although INL has tried to address the problem, the results are far from satisfactory, according to SIGIR.

Lawmakers too are getting fed up with DynCorp's handling of the police training mission and INL's lax oversight.

"[INL has]been managing this contract in Iraq since 2004 and, according to this report, they have no idea where any of the money went," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO. "What's even worse is that these are the same people responsible for police training in Afghanistan, so I don't have any confidence that they're doing a better job there."

The Cable

Lost in Nigeria

Are you wondering what's going on with Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua, who is supposedly in Saudi Arabia recovering from heart surgery but hasn't been seen in two months? Don't ask the State Department, because officials there have no idea.

The Cable spoke with a State Department official working on this issue to see whether Foggy Bottom had a handle on what's going on. There's so much confusion surrounding Yar'Adua's status that the Nigerian high court last week imposed a 14-day deadline for the cabinet to vote on whether he is still capable of ruling.

Seeing as how the underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab hailed from Nigeria and considering that the State Department's IG office just issued a report warning that Nigeria is at risk of becoming a terrorist safe haven, you would think the Nigerian president's disappearance would be a major cause of concern.

To judge by this official's reaction, not so much.

"We follow the reports that he's been out of the country and ill; we all saw the interview he did where he came across that he sounded weak ...  As far as we are aware he is a sick man."

Do you have any specific details about his health status or location, The Cable asked the official?

"Not really. Anyone who listened to the BBC interview would conclude he did not sound well."

OK, so the State Department is basing its analysis on the BBC? Well, the official went on, it doesn't really matter much because the bilateral relationship between the United States and Nigeria "does not revolve around the head of state," and there are lots of connections at lots of levels.

Who's running the country, then? Apparently it's Goodluck Jonathan, the official said, citing news reports saying that the vice president had taken charge of responding to incidents of violence this month.

OK, well, what does State know about the violence itself? Again, the official pointed to the media as its main source of knowledge.

"We've been following reports of unrest there and obviously hope they should be resolved," the official said.

But what about that IG report, which warned not only about increasing radicalization in Nigeria but also criticized the dilapidated condition of U.S. consular facilities and inadequate staffing there?

"I wouldn't want to comment on the specifics of the report, not having read it," the official said.

UPDATE: Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson will visit Nigeria as part of a whirlwind tour of Africa beginning tomorrow. In Nigeria he will hold bilaterals with Vice President Jonathan and Foreign Affairs Chief Ojo Maduekwe.