Alleged fraud in Iraq security program

April 30, 2006 at 1:22 PM

WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) -- A federal audit says that using private firms to train and equip Iraqis to safeguard oil pipelines and transmission towers is a failure.

Reports of possible fraud, missing weapons and destroyed documents plagued the U.S. initiative known as Task Force Shield, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

Disbanded in 2005, Task Force Shield paid two security firms $147 million to train and equip thousands of Iraqis to protect Iraq's oil and power infrastructure.

"The lack of records and equipment accountability raises significant concerns about possible fraud, waste and abuse of Task Force Shield program by U.S. and Iraqi officials," a report by a U.S. government watchdog agency said.

Former commanders of the task force could not be reached for comment but the chief executive of the London-based company responsible for training guards to protect the oil pipelines defended his company's work, the Times said.

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