[Marxism] Iraqi Contractors Frustrated
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Tue Feb 10 12:26:16 MST 2004
Iraqi Contractors Frustrated
Governing Council Official Criticizes U.S.-Led Authority
By Jackie Spinner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 10, 2004; Page E03
The Iraq Governing Council's top representative in Washington yesterday criticized the U.S.-led occupation authority for passing over Iraqi firms in awarding billions of dollars worth of reconstruction contracts.
Rend Rahim Francke, the U.S. appointed council's ambassador-designate to the United States, said the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is not making good on its pledge to employ Iraqis, which is seen as a key to stabilizing the country.
"Ultimately, American companies can come and build bridges and power plants. But these companies will be gone," she said during speech at a conference in Washington on reconstruction in Iraq. "We need to build capacity" for Iraqi firms, she said. "Jobs for Iraq will create stability and peace . . . and curb terrorism."
Francke said she also is concerned that some Iraqi companies that have won reconstruction contracts had ties to Saddam Hussein. "This is of great concern because we do not want to concentrate economic power again in the hands of the groups that had access to Saddam's economic power," she said.
"I believe the CPA process is still shrouded in mystery," she said in an interview after the speech. "The whole issue of transparency or lack of transparency detracts from the legitimacy of the whole effort."
Joe Benkert, the authority's chief of operations in Washington, said U.S. officials are committed to involving Iraqis in the rebuilding of their country. "It's very clear to us this is a job for the Iraqi people and the Iraqi people are up to the task," he told about 150 people attending the conference, which was sponsored by D.C.-based Equity International.
William Lash, an assistant secretary of commerce, said 65 percent of the reconstruction contracts have gone to Iraqi firms. He did not say what percentage of the construction money that represented.
Some Iraqi businessmen said they are not given a chance to compete, even for subcontracts.
Falah Wajdi, general manager of Wajdi Technical Export, an Iraqi engineering and construction firm, repeatedly confronted officials about why companies like his were not getting contracts. He said his firm routinely received about 35 contracts a year, worth $30 million, under the former Oil for Food program. Wajdi said the company has won 28 reconstruction contracts through the CPA and U.S. primary contractors, but they total less than $1 million.
Timothy B. Mills, an attorney at Patton Boggs in Washington who represents companies doing business in Iraq, said part of the problem is that many Iraqi firms have no experience in bidding on government contracts. He said one company submitted a proposal for a subcontract and only included the amount it would cost "per meter" to do the job. After being given a chance to resubmit the bid, Mills said the company still failed to include pricing for labor and plumbing and other required specifications.
But Mills said the CPA and U.S. agencies awarding contracts do not make it easy for Iraqi firms to compete. For example, the bid packages are only printed in English and not published in print so Iraqi firms without Internet access can review them.
"The challenges you face with the CPA is they don't get out of the Green Zone," he said, referring to the fortified compound where the authority is headquartered. "They don't get out in Iraqi businesses. It seems to me an initiative needs to be taken by the U.S. government to publish the bids where they can be read in a language [in which] they can be [understood]."
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