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Highlights

After security conditions in Iraq began to deteriorate in June 2003, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) included restoring essential services in Iraq, such as water and sanitation, as part of its strategy for establishing a secure, peaceful, and democratic Iraq. From 1991 to 2003, a decreasing number of Iraqis had access to safe drinking water and sanitation services, and water-borne disease rates rose. The United States has made available $2.6 billion for rebuilding the water and sanitation sector. As part of GAO's review of Iraq reconstruction under the Comptroller General's authority, we assessed U.S. activities in the water and sanitation sector, including (1) the funding and status of U.S. activities, (2) U.S. efforts to measure progress, (3) the factors affecting the implementation of reconstruction activities, and (4) the sustainability of U.S.-funded projects.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of State To more accurately report the results of U.S. reconstruction efforts in water and sanitation, the Secretary of State should establish indicators and measures to assess how the U.S. efforts are improving the quality and quantity of water and sanitation services in Iraq. For example, State could include information on project scope and cost in its reporting on numbers of projects under way and completed. State could also include surveys that measure Iraqis' access to water and sanitation facilities and their satisfaction with these services in selected geographic areas that are served by larger-scale U.S. reconstruction efforts. Efforts to develop performance measures should take into account the challenges in collecting data in a difficult security environment.
Closed - Implemented
In September 2005 (REBUILDING IRAQ: U.S. Water and Sanitation Efforts Need Improved Measures for Assessing Impact and Sustained Resources for Maintaining Facilities, 9/7/05, GAO-05-872), we recommended that the Secretary of State establish indicators and measures to assess how U.S. reconstruction efforts are improving the quality and quantity of water and sanitation services in Iraq. At the time, in the absence of metering and quality measures, State tracked the number of projects in progress and the number completed. In June 2008, GAO issued a progress report on Iraq (SECURING, STABILIZING AND REBUILDING IRAQ: Progress Report: Some Gains Made, Updated Strategy Needed, 6/23/08, GAO-08-837). As part of this effort, GAO found that State had instituted a revised metric in response to GAO's recommendation. In April 2006, State developed the goal of producing enough clean water to reach up to an additional 8.5 million Iraqis. State used progress against this goal as a metric and could report that, as of March 2008, U.S.-funded projects had the capacity to provide an additional 8 million Iraqis with potable water.
Department of State To help ensure that projects funded by U.S. appropriations operate at their intended capacity and provide benefits to the Iraqi people after their completion, the Secretary of State should work with Iraqi ministries to assess the resources needed to operate and maintain new and repaired water and sanitation facilities before they are turned over to Iraqi management and, afterwards, work with the Iraqi government to ensure that Iraq has these resources.
Closed - Not Implemented
Subsequent GAO reports have found that U.S.-funded infrastructure in Iraq is not being sustained. In our report "Rebuilding Iraq: Improved Management Controls and Iraqi Commitment Needed for Key State and USAID Capacity-Building Programs (GAO-09-526), June 3, 2009, we reported that the Department of State cannot ensure that the Provincial Reconstruction Development Committee (PRDC) program is achieving its objective to build capacity. Iraq has committed to sustaining U.S.-funded projects and programs and sharing in their costs in several official documents and the International Compact for Iraq. However, we have found that while Iraq budgets for investment and sustainment activities, it may not spend the budgeted funds. For the PRDC program, 16 of the 40 projects we reviewed had evidence that the Iraqi government agreed to sustain the project. However, the letters did not specify financial resources or other support that would be provided. In addition, State could not provide evidence that that Iraqi government followed through and budgeted or provided funds to sustain these projects.

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