Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent
January 31, NEW YORK – The U.S. government has required Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root to repay only $9 million on a controversial contract, and promised information about the metering of Iraq’s oil output has still not been provided, in the stealth January 30 release by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq.
The IAMB last took question from the media, including Inner City Press, on December 28 at the United Nations in New York. At that time, IAMB stated that an oil metering contract had recently been let. It promised to provide more information shortly. Inner City Press twice asked the IMF for this additional information, but none was provided. Then on January 30 a summary of a January 23 meeting in Paris was placed online. The release tersely states that at the meeting, the IAMB
“reiterated its concern that key actions, especially the installation of an oil metering system, were taking a long time to implement. The IAMB urged the Government of Iraq to implement all IAMB recommendations promptly."
Apparently, the December 28 statement that the oil metering contract was in place was incorrect. No one has apologized, and the (unmetered) oil continues to flow. The Jan. 30 release also states, in the nature of disclosure:
“The U.S. Government informed the IAMB that a global settlement of all six DFI funded task orders under the KBR contract was reached between the U.S. Government and KBR on December 22, 2005. The settlement provided for a reduction of contract costs of US$9 million.”
This is much less than had been contested, and previously reported. Given the costs, most importantly in lives, of this Iraq war, what kind of transparency is this? It also raises questions, on timing and other issues, in light of Halliburton's January 27 announcement that it intends to sell off a stake in Kellogg, Brown & Root in an initial public offering of stock. Developing...
Inner City Press's last report on this topic:
More Questions than Answers about the Development Fund for Iraq: Representatives of Iraq Absent from UN Meeting and Press Conference, Purportedly Due to Visa Problems
On December 28, four of the five members of the oversight board of the Development Fund for Iraq answered reporters’ questions for an hour at the United Nations in New York. Missing was the representative of Iraq on the International Advisory and Monitoring Board. The explanation offered by the IAMB’s chairman Jean-Pierre Halbwachs was that the Iraqi representatives had not been able to obtain U.S. visas in time. Their absence proved convenient, as questions soon arose about a line in Mr. Halbwachs prepared remarks, regarding the ongoing lack of metering on oil production in Iraq. Mr. Halbwachs read out: “we understand that a recent agreement has been reached between the Government of Iraq and a U.S. company to undertake the task” of oil metering.
When asked for the name of the U.S. company, the IAMB chairman’s response was that only the Iraqi representatives would have that information. When a question arose about the Iraqi representative’s written reference to the cost of metering being covered by “donations,” no answer was forthcoming. When asked why it has taken two years to make even this gesture toward metering, the representative of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development Khalifa Ali Dau shrugged and smiled. Finally, the IMF’s deputy press secretary said he will be providing follow-up information about the metering contract (presumably on the IAMB’s web site, www.iamb.info).
There were questions about KPMG’s partial audit, and Halliburton’s subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root. The IMF’s representative Bert Keuppens confirmed reports of oil smuggling out of, and in some cases back into, Iraq. (For another report, which puts the Iraqi absence last, see CNN. The UN’s own write-up is here).
-- Jean-Pierre Halbwachs briefing reporters on Dec. 28
When asked in conclusion to assign a grade to the transparency of the spending process at the Development Fund for Iraq, the World Bank’s representative Fayezul Choudhury declined to assign a grade, and pointed out that even most European Union countries, and also the United States, have only qualified opinions from their auditors. The press conference ended with many questions unanswered. The IMF’s Bert Keuppens rushed out of the briefing room. He returned a few minutes later and handed out two business cards. It would have made sense, one wag said, to provide contact information for the representatives to the IAMB from Iraq. And to have thought more deeply about this question of their visas. The IAMB's online self-description:
"The IAMB shall consist of duly qualified representatives of each of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, the Director-General of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and the President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and a duly qualified individual designated by the Government of Iraq.
"B. The IAMB, after consulting with the Government of Iraq, may appoint up to 5 observers to the IAMB from a list of independent, qualified candidates, which should include Iraqi nationals nominated by the Government of Iraq.
"C. At any meeting of the IAMB, each member may be accompanied by an alternate, designated in a way identical to the designation of each member, and up to two advisors."
Neither the Iraqi representative nor his alternate / deputy nor even advisors were present, for the meeting or to answer questions.