Iraq is recovering, but who’s keeping tabs?

Gavin Hinks, AccountancyAge

A former chief accounting adviser to the Iraqi governing authorities reveals
that neither the US, its allies, nor Iraqi officials were interested in
implementing a proper accounting system for the country. As a result, the
fledgling government is left wide open to fraud on a massive scale.

The stories of fraud in Iraq are now legion. The country, so tragic in the
scale of death and destruction each day, is awash with money as contractors rush
to service military and civilian contracts, while no one keeps tabs on it.
Accounting systems are shown little attention or completely ignored.

There is a lesson here from charitable organisations that have moved, not
only to place accountants in the field alongside their aid workers, but also
given them the systems and controls that enable them to keep track of the money.
Even in the most harsh and tragic conditions charities realise the importance of
accounting for the funds properly.

Iraq appears to have accountants but no modern systems. While
Accountancy Age would never claim to be an expert, establishing a civil
society is a complex business and accounting systems help. This will sound
pompous but western accounting embodies the key values of transparency and
accountability, values that also happen to be central to any democracy.

It is said Iraq was using a communist form of accounting, but even China has
woken up to international accounting standards. Saving lives and bringing an end
to the violence is the major priority. But the US had already taken the initial
step of sending in the accountants to advise. Why have their expertise and then
ignore it? There seems little sense in that.

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