Larry and Debby Kline artists and provocateurs – installation, performances, and other works

The War Ain’t Over Till the Paperwork’s Done


The War Ain’t Over Till the Paperwork’s Done, 2008

This work consists of 95 hand-made paper tanks in pentagonal formation.  The work alludes to the “paper tiger,” a phrase used to describe an aggressive yet ineffectual military power.  The vision of paper tanks in various states of decay also refers to a recent disclosure of massive misappropriation of taxpayer funds as documented in the Pentagon’s publication of “Internal Controls Over Payments Made in Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt.”

In May of 2008, the Pentagon released the official findings of an internal audit tracking 8.2 billion dollars that the United States army paid to civilian contractors in Iraq.  The audit cited the failure of the government to properly document these expenditures with clearly verifiable receipts, further stating that almost none of these payments followed federal regulations.  Multi-million dollar contracts were scrawled on cocktail napkins, in some cases naming the recipient with no documentation of services received.

Our hand-bound version of the pentagon report is displayed with the work for patrons to view.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following are excerpts from The New York Times article, “Iraq Spending Ignored Rules, Pentagon Says,” By James Glanz, May 23, 2008.

A Pentagon audit of $8.2 billion in American taxpayer money spent by the United States Army on contractors in Iraq has found that almost none of the payments followed federal rules and that in some cases, contracts worth millions of dollars were paid for despite little or no record of what, if anything, was received.

The audit also found a sometimes stunning lack of accountability in the way the United States military spent some $1.8 billion in seized or frozen Iraqi assets, which in the early phases of the conflict were often doled out in stacks or pallets of cash. The audit was released Thursday in tandem with a Congressional hearing on the payments.

In one case, according to documents displayed by Pentagon auditors at the hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, a cash payment of $320.8 million in Iraqi money was authorized on the basis of a single signature and the words “Iraqi Salary Payment” on an invoice. In another, $11.1 million of taxpayer money was paid to IAP, an American contractor, on the basis of a voucher with no indication of what was delivered.

The new report is especially significant because while other federal auditors have severely criticized the way the United States has handled payments to contractors in Iraq, this is the first time that the Pentagon itself has acknowledged the mismanagement on anything resembling this scale.

The disclosure that $1.8 billion in Iraqi assets was mishandled comes on top of an earlier finding by an independent federal oversight agency, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, that United States occupation authorities early in the conflict could not account for the disbursement of $8.8 billion in Iraqi oil money and seized assets.

The audit was carried out by the Defense Department Office of the Inspector General, which is led by Claude M. Kicklighter, a retired lieutenant general.

When the results were compiled, they revealed a lack of accountability notable even by the shaky standards detailed in earlier examinations of contracting in Iraq. The report said that about $1.4 billion in payments lacked even minimal documentation “such as certified vouchers, proper receiving reports and invoices,” to explain what had been purchased and why.

Another $6.3 billion in payments did contain information explaining the expenditures but lacked other information required by federal regulations governing the use of taxpayer money — things like payment terms, proper identification numbers and contact information for the agents involved in the transaction. Taken together, those results meant that almost 95 percent of the payments had not been properly documented.

In a separate examination, auditors found that the $1.8 billion in seized Iraqi assets paid out by American military officers had not been properly accounted for.

Examples of the paperwork for some of those payments, displayed at the hearing, depict a system that became accustomed to making huge payments on the fly, with little oversight or attention to detail. In one instance, a United States Treasury check for $5,674,075.00 was written to pay a company called Al Kasid Specialized Vehicles Trading Company in Baghdad for items that a voucher does not even describe.

In another case, $6,268,320.07 went to the contractor Combat Support Associates with even less explanation. And a scrawl on another piece of paper says only that $8 million had been paid out as “Funds for the Benefit of the Iraqi People.”

But perhaps the masterpiece of elliptic paperwork is the document identified at the top as a “Public Voucher for Purchases and Services Other Than Personal.” It indicates that $320.8 million went for “Iraqi Salary Payment,” with no explanation of what the Iraqis were paid to do.

Whatever it was, the document suggests, each of those Iraqis was handsomely compensated. Under the “quantity” column is the number 1,000, presumably indicating the number of people who were to be paid — to the tune of $320,800 apiece — if the paperwork is to be trusted.

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