March 20, 2007

Washington, DC – Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today introduced comprehensive legislation to repair and redeem America’s reconstruction effort in Iraq, which has been riddled with waste and abuse of funds.

“Our reconstruction work is rapidly failing,” Lantos said. “We must immediately boost our efforts to stamp out corruption and ensure that American taxpayer dollars no longer fund waste and fraud rather than the delivery of vital services in Iraq.”

The Iraq Reconstruction Improvement Act (H.R. 1581) will provide for technical assistance to Iraqi ministries and dramatically improved accountability and oversight of U.S. reconstruction projects.

“Reconstruction has been beset by gross corruption and massive American and Iraqi bureaucratic confusion,” Lantos said. “The Iraqi people, hoping that the fall of Saddam would bring peace and prosperity to their country, have instead been handed half-built hospitals, failed water projects, and a power grid that is more off than on. It is unacceptable that we have failed to deliver the basic services that would allow Iraqis to live dignified, peaceful lives.”

To improve oversight and monitoring of reconstruction efforts in Iraq, Lantos’ legislation extends the authority of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and provides assistance to build the capacity of the Inspectors General in the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“This week Congress is considering a crucial appropriations bill that I strongly support,” Lantos said. “Conscience demands that we consider not only how our country conducts itself in Iraq and how and when our troops will come home, but also what we leave behind. This legislation creates accountability for our efforts to set Iraq back on its feet, and aims to build our long-term capacity to ensure that never again will we be confronted with such a debacle in post-conflict reconstruction.”