Welch grills Rice on Iraqi war contracts

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Congressman Peter Welch grilled Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today over what Welch says is the Bush Administration’s failure to address massive corruption by the Iraqi government.

Welch says the Administration has done a terrible job overseeing billions of dollars in special war contracts.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The exchange between Welch and Rice took place at a meeting of the House Oversight committee.

The panel is investigating reports that the Iraqi government has issued an order stating that no investigations of corruption can take place without its express approval.

Welch asked Rice to specifically address this issue and he was disappointed when she didn’t:

(Rice) I want to just emphasize that let’s not take Iraq in isolation corruption is not just a pervasive issue….(Welch) I do want to interrupt…

(Rice)  Let me just finish… (Welch) No!

(Waxman)  Secretary Rice, please. We have limited time. (Rice) Mr. Chairman may I have an opportunity to finish my answers?

(Welch) My question is only about Iraq.

Welch then asked Rice if she would urge President Bush to oppose the new Iraqi order that limits investigations into corruption:

(Rice) The United States would expect and would indeed say to the Iraqi government that it expects that no official would be immune from investigation or prosecution for corruption.

(Welch) That wasn’t my question. My question is, if this order that gives blanket authority to the Prime Minster to block any prosecution stands and exists will you ask the President…to demand that the Prime Minster repudiate and rescind this order?

Rice answered the question by repeating her original statement.

Following the hearing Welch said he wasn’t satisfied with any of the Secretary of State’s answers and that her testimony is in direct conflict with independent government officials.

Welch says he’s concerned that the United States has failed to take sufficient steps to curb many allegations of fraud in Iraq – a situation he says has cost American taxpayers billions of dollars.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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