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Inner City Press Global Inner Cities Report - December 28-29, 2005

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,

            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.

Again, the IAMB’s web site is

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