Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Plunder at Home, Plunder Abroad

The world's leading imperialist powers, Britain and the United States, are fond of accusing other governments and institutions of corruption.

Recently it was Kenya, before that the Palestinian Authority, Zimbabwe and the whole of Africa. US senator Paul Volcker led the onslaught on the United Nations over the oil for food programme.

Kofi Annan, his son, and even our own George Galloway MP were targetted, but the real aim was to undermine the UN itself as a body speaking on behalf of the world's nations.
But what is the record of the two guardians of democracy and freedom?

US journalist Ed Harriman has exposed corruption and criminality In Iraq on a staggering scale.The US-run Coalition Privisional Authority (CPA) handed huge contracts to a handful of US firms with no competition. The CPA's inspector general found that $8.8 billion spent by the Iraqi Interim Government was not properly accounted for - more than the Mobutu stole from Zaire in 32 years. Millions simply disappeared from the Iraqi Central Bank, and $800m was handed out to US commanders without even being counted. A US contractor was overpaid by $2,825,755, another given $25 million in cash with no record.

Nineteen billion new Iraqi dinars turned up on a plane sent to Lebanon by the Iraqi interior minister, and $1.4bn was flown to the Kurdish regional capital Irbil where it vanished. Ministers and officials distributed millions in cash to their friends, relatives or private militias. No records were kept of Iraqi oil exports, and in flagrant breach of Security Council Resolution 1483 oil income was not placed in development accounts. Christian Aid protested that the distribution of Iraq's money should have been subject to international oversight, but nobody listened. $18.4 billion approved by the US Congress for Iraq ended up being spent on fighting the resistance. Reconstruction funds went on the war, while in Iraq hospitals and schools were derelict, electricity intermittent, and water supplies polluted.

The war in Iraq cost Britain and the US £105 billion, paid for by the working people of those countries. But this figure is dwarfed by the estimated £3 trillion in Iraqi oil wealth.In 1972 Saddam Hussain nationalised the oil industry and the US and British oil giants were excluded from the country. After the occupation, executives from BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil and Halliburton gathered in London to share out the oil contracts.The 2005 Iraqi constitution, written by the US occupiers, requires major sectors of the economy to be privatised, and guarantees foreign companies a major role.

This is the real reason for the invasion and occupation, and why the occupiers had to search desparately for a just cause.And what about Britain itself? New Labour and the Treasury are overseeing 'legal' corruption involving billions in public funds. A BBC investigation has revealed billions being wasted on management consultants in the public sector.These companies and civil servants have lied to MPs and the punlic, while in almost every case leaving a worse financial situation than they found. In 2004 consultants across the public sector cost almost £2 billion. In recent years Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust has been overrun by consultants from Quo Health, McKinseys and Secta. A chief executive from Quo Health was appointed at a salary of over £300,000, but the trust's deficit grew to £62m. The contract was terminated early.McKinseys carried out "a holistic financial and activity diagnostic." Then consultants from Secta were "franchised" by the Department of Health to run the trust under a new Chief Executive.A deficit of £3m became £11.5m. The former trust chairman said "the whole process of the franchise failed completely." But according to Secta, "services were substantially improved."Secta's contract also was terminated early, but the company refused to say how much they were paid off on grounds of "commercial confidentiality".

Members of the Patients Forum were told that £150,000 was spent on private operations, but found under the Freedom of Information act the true figure was £2.8m.Local MP Mike Penning said Secta "goes around in circles to try and make sure you do not get the facts," and the government was "ploughing more and more and more into Trusts to oversee the management, which we're already paying for in the first place."An HM Revenue and Customs employee told the BBC 'advisors' had been doing his job for much higher pay. "When you look at the car park, you see expensive cars and clearly they can't belong to civil servants - you know, Mercedes, BMWs and Porsches."The National Audit Office questioned the use of consultants at the Department for Education and Skills, citing "ineffective outcomes, cost overruns, poor value for money and lack of propriety."

When Labour MP Austin Mitchell, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, asked the DfES how much was spent on consultants, he was told "about £4.4m a year." But an internal audit he was refused access to gave the true figure: £20-£30m.Mitchell says "the estimate they gave me was really untrue and they were trying to con me. They lied."The BBC investigation reveals corruption, waste and dishonesty involving billions in taxes paid by working people, and the contempt with which elected and public representatives are treated by the Whitehall mandarins overseeing this 'legal' robbery.

Such corruption and injustice is endemic. NHS hospitals are now among the dirtiest in the whole of Europe, east and west. The number of hospital cleaners has fallen by half since contracting out started in 1979.

Private lobbyists operate at every level of parliament & government, and research bodies on GM crops are packed with representatives of agribusiness and food retailers. The NHS, teaching and local government are subject to endless monitoring and restructuring overseen by consultants.

Of course corruption is rife in many developing countries, where the most respectable British companies openly admit to handing out lavish bribes. There is just as much corruption in Britain and the rest of Europe, where it is more effectively hidden.

But this corruption pales into insignificance when set against the vast wealth plundered from the developing nations by imperialism, through debt, privatisation, unequal trade, and now though war and re-colonisation.

No comments: