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USA: Deadline Set for $19bn in Iraq Contracts

by Joshua ChaffinFinancial Times
November 19th, 2003

US authorities on Wednesday laid out an ambitious timetable to rebuild Iraq, saying they planned to award $18.7bn in contracts for reconstruction projects by the beginning of February.

David Nash, head of the new Iraq Infrastructure Reconstruction Office, said bids for 25 prime contracts covering tasks such as reparing electricity stations, training security services and fixing roads and bridges, would be due in early January.

Those prime contracts will be reserved for companies from the US-led coalition, although sub-contracts will be open to others.

"We're going to get work under way right away," Mr Nash said, underlining the US determination to secure peace in Iraq with a robust rebuilding effort.

The sold-out conference for prospective bidders in Arlington, Virginia, marked the IIRO's public debut to be followed by a similar presentation in London tomorrow. The new group was created to streamline and supervise rebuilding efforts led until now by a variety of US and Iraqi government agencies and often criticised for mismanagement.

Mr Nash, a retired rear admiral, pledged that the IIRO would have "maximum transparency from beginning to end".

Bidders will be expected to offer information on their prospective partners, as well as their technical and financial capabilities. The IIRO will then select three finalists for each contract before declaring a winner.

Mr Nash said he would place special consideration on contractors' prospective contribution to training and restoring the local Iraqi construction industry.

He also said bidders would be judged on security considerations. The rebuilding effort has been hindered by theft and sabotage, which have pushed up costs and slowed progress. "We have got to make sure the transmission tower is there the next day after we put it up," Mr Nash said.

He also said the IIRO expected to extend some existing contracts, particularly for training Iraqi police and soldiers, in order to continue the "momentum".

The rebuilding process has been a political embarrassment to the White House so far, as Congressional opponents have alleged that Halliburton and other politically connected companies have received preferential treatment.

Tom Davis, a Republican Congressman from Virginia, cast the rebuilding effort as a patriotic mission that was essential to defeat terrorism. "If you make a profit along the way, all the better," he said.

However small businesses remain concerned that they will be shut out. "Our chances of winning are probably zero because we're going up against companies like Halliburton," one executive complained to Mr Nash. "I doubt we'll see one penny from helping to rebuild Iraq."





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