US auditor urges anti-corruption drive in Iraq

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Corruption continues to cost Iraq billions of dollars each year, and Washington and Baghdad should be doing far more to stop it, the top U.S. auditor for Iraq's reconstruction said in a report released on Sunday.

Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said U.S. efforts to help Iraq build strong anti-corruption institutions were urgently needed and called for an American-Iraqi summit to battle a legacy of corruption.

"Creating an effective anti-corruption structure within Iraq's government is essential to the long-term success of Iraq's fledgling democracy," Bowen wrote in his seventh quarterly report to Congress.

It was released days after the United Nations concluded that 2,200 companies including DaimlerChrysler, Siemens and Volvo made illicit payments totaling $1.8 billion to Saddam Hussein's government under the U.N. oil-for-food program.

Bowen's office, which has 20 auditors and 10 investigators in Iraq plus staffers in the United States, has made significant progress on cases charging fraud, bribery and kickbacks involving U.S. citizens -- government officials and contractors -- in Iraq, he said.

The report said investigators had gathered "an enormous amount of evidence" in these investigations but gave no details on any possible indictments.
http://today.reuters.com/news/newsA...C_0_US-IRAQ-RECONSTRUCTION.xml&archived=False
 

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