KAI RYSSDAL: Congress was doing some investigating today into Iraqi reconstruction contracts. Eric Niiler reports now that Paul Bremer was on the receiving end of Democrats’ frustrations. Frustrations about more than just the contracts, too.
ERIC NIILER: Paul Bremer ran the temporary government after the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Since then, federal auditors found the authority lost track of most of the money.
For example, Baltimore Democrat Elijah Cummings
grilled Bremer about an American firm Bremer hired. An accounting firm with no accountants.
ELIJAH CUMMINGS: And would you be concerned or upset if you found out that there were no accountants on Northstar’s staff? Would that concern you?
PAUL BREMER: It would if it were true . . .
Turns out, Northstar was run out of some guy’s house in San Diego, according to Cummings.
Bremer’s appearance was also a chance for some members to question President Bush’s new plan to send more money and troops to Iraq. This from California Democrat Diane Watson
DIANE WATSON: How can we, in good consciousness, say to our constituents, “Lets send them more money”? There was no accountability then, and what guarantees do we have that it’s going to be accounted for now?
Bremer defended himself.
PAUL BREMER: I acknowledge that I made mistakes. And that with the benefit of hindsight, I would have made some decisions differently. But on the whole, I think we made great progress under some of the most difficult conditions imaginable.
The special inspector general for Iraq testified that Bremer’s agency may have wasted billions, but he dismissed charges of widespread fraud.
Still, corruption may be Bremer’s legacy. The auditor told the panel a billion dollars was recently diverted from the Iraqi oil ministry to insurgents.
In Washington, I’m Eric Niiler for Marketplace
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