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Report: $20B of Iraq’s Oil Revenue Unaccounted For By U.S.

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A new report finds that the U.S. handed over “power” to Iraq without properly accounting for what it has done with some $20 billion of Iraq’s own money. We speak with one of the authors of the report in British charity Christian Aid. [includes transcript]

The Bush administration handed over power to Iraq without properly accounting for what it has done with some $20 billion of Iraq’s own money. This according to a new report published Monday by Christian Aid–a leading British charity.

The report points out that the May 2003 U.N. resolution giving the C.P.A. the right to spend Iraqi oil revenue required the creation of an international oversight board, which would appoint an auditor to ensure that the funds were spent to benefit the Iraqi people.

Instead, the U.S. stalled, and the auditor didn’t begin work until April 2004. Even then, according to an interim report, it faced “resistance from C.P.A. staff.” And now, with the audit still unpublished, the C.P.A. has been dissolved.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes: “Think of it this way: given the Arab world’s suspicion that we came to steal Iraq’s oil, the occupation authorities had every incentive to expedite an independent audit that would clear Halliburton and other U.S. corporations of charges that they were profiteering at Iraq’s expense. Unless, that is, the charges are true.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:We go now to Anthea Lawson, one of the authors of Christian Aid’s new report, titled “Fueling Suspicion: The Coalition and Iraq’s Oil Billions.” How much is unaccounted for, Anthea Lawson?

ANTHEA LAWSON: Good morning. We don’t actually know how much money is accounted for precisely because this audit has not yet appeared. The auditors did not start work until April, by which time the coalition had already been spending Iraq’s money for almost a year. And there were only a few weeks left in order to go through the books. However, Christian Aid has managed to get hold of a copy of the interim audit which came out, we think it was in the last few weeks. It only covers the actual numbers up until the end of 2003. But its general concerns indicate that the auditors are indeed very concerned that a number of things have not been accounted for properly. This includes the way that Iraq’s oil has been sold, not enough records kept of contracts made, why particular contracts were won and others not awarded. And also the auditors are extremely concerned that the information which the coalition possesses about the sole source contracts — now these are the controversial contracts that were awarded to large US firms, some of them with links to the Bush administration — and they were awarded without competitive bidding. This information has still not been provided to the auditors, which is extremely concerning.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And this is apart from the US money that’s been spent, where already there have been many questions raised about the expenditures, but this is — the Iraqi money is not included in any of these revelations that have occurred in the past about Halliburton, the sole source bidding in terms of US money. This is separate, this is only the Iraqi money.

ANTHEA LAWSON: That’s right, this is a completely set of separate money. There are various funds which the coalition in Baghdad has had to draw upon in issuing reconstruction contracts and getting on with the reconstruction work. There was the $18.4 billion, which was voted by the US Congress, and that’s the US funds which you are referring to, and I understand that there has been quite a lot of talk about that in the US, but we have been looking specifically at Iraq’s money. Now, this is the only money that Iraq’s got. Iraq earns 95% or more of the revenue from oil. This is it. This is Iraq’s money. They have no choice in it being handed over to the coalition, and the only grounds —

JUAN GONZALEZ: If I can interrupt you one second. One thing your report indicates is that the oil that’s being sold from Iraq is not even being metered, so that therefore no one really knows how much oil has been sold?

ANTHEA LAWSON: Yes! This is correct. Now, metering occurs in order to reconcile the amount of oil that’s coming out of the ground with the amount that is being sold on, at the point when it’s moved on into pipelines, tankers and so on to move on to its next destination. Like a lot of Iraq’s oil industry, the metering facilities fell into disrepair during the 90’s, during the sanctions regime. And one would have thought given the importance of the metering to insuring transparency of oil revenues it would be one of the first things that was put into place before the oil started flowing again. But nearly a year after the CPA began extracting Iraq’s oil and selling it on Iraq’s behalf, the UN Oversight board — this board that we were talking about in the report that was set up so late — started complaining to the CPA, saying there’s no metering. Now that was only in April.

AMY GOODMAN: Anthea Lawson, we going to have to leave it there. I thank you very much for being with us. One of the authors of Christian Aid’s new report, “Fueling suspicion: the coalition and Iraq’s oil billions. You can go to our website and get contacts at

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