Sunshine for Iraqi Reconstruction Projects Included in Iraqi Spending Bill

WASHINGTON – The Senate has approved legislation requiring federal agencies to publicly justify any Iraqi reconstruction contract awarded without an open and competitive bidding process, in order to inform the public of the contracts’ costs, and of how the agency identified the companies invited to bid. Senator Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., joined Senators Susan Collins, R-Me., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and eight other senators in sponsoring the bipartisan amendment to the Senate supplemental spending bill for Iraq. The Senate approved the amendment by a voice vote late Thursday.

“The American taxpayer will be financing the reconstruction of Iraq at a cost of tens of billions of dollars,” Lieberman said. “With this amount of money at stake, the government needs to be held accountable. Taxpayers should know exactly how their money will be spent, why particular companies receive favorable treatment, and whether cost-saving measures are being taken. This amendment will bring an illuminating ray of sunshine into the process.” The amendment requires the Administration to make public all documents justifying any non-competitive bidding process used for the reconstruction of Iraq and funded by the Iraq spending bill. The information that must be published includes the cost of the contract, a brief description of the contract’s scope, a list of companies selected for the closed bidding process, and explanations of how and why the agency chose those contractors. The publication of this information, along with the justifying documents for the closed bidding process, will allow for greater Congressional oversight and help ensure a more transparent and more fair procurement process. Estimates of the total cost of reconstruction in Iraq, including the rebuilding of schools, roads and other infrastructure, are approaching $100 billion dollars. This sunshine amendment requires public accountability for the use of secretive bidding procedures that may expose taxpayers to additional cost. In September 2000, the U.S. General Accounting Office found that closed-bid and no-bid contracts can cost taxpayers more, specifically citing cost overruns on logistical and engineering projects involving the U.S. military. DOD and other Federal agencies have already awarded billions of dollars’ worth of Iraqi reconstruction contracts with limited or no competition.