Senate Approves Proposal to Extend the Term of the Special IG for Iraqi Reconstruction

The U.S. Senate has approved legislation authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) and cosponsored by 25 Senators to include Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Norm Coleman (R-MN), that will extend the term of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). Without this legislation, the SIGIR’s term would expire next year, on October 1, 2007. The Senators’ legislation would enable the SIGIR to continue his critical oversight work until late 2008 and was approved as an amendment to the fiscal year 2007 Military Construction Appropriations bill.

Senator Collins said, “I am pleased by the strong support for this amendment and that our colleagues in the Senate recognize how crucial it is for the SIGIR’s work to continue. This office has proven to be a much-needed watchdog, auditing reconstruction contracts in Iraq and spotlighting numerous cases of waste, fraud, and abuse and we must keep the watchdog on the job. This office provides a $25 dollar benefit for every dollar spent on oversight and investigations. It is inconceivable that we would remove this aggressive oversight while the American taxpayer is still spending billions of dollars on Iraq reconstruction projects.”

Senator Feingold said, “I am pleased the Senate passed this common sense provision to extend the mandate of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. This critical office has been incredibly successful in its role as a watchdog of U.S. taxpayer dollars used for reconstruction efforts in Iraq. While there are varying views about the situation in Iraq, the SIGIR is one thing that everyone should agree helps ensure the effective use of our reconstruction funds. This office must be able to continue its important work to uncover any further waste, fraud, and abuse of U.S. taxpayer dollars in Iraq.”

Senator Lieberman said, “Stuart Bowen and his staff have performed a great service by uncovering billions of taxpayer dollars wasted on abuse and mismanagement of Iraqi reconstruction contracts. That’s why the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction must be allowed to continue his work for as long as American taxpayers are footing the bill for Iraqi reconstruction projects.”

Senator Coleman said, “Bringing our Iraq reconstruction oversight efforts to a premature end is simply not an option. I am pleased that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle demonstrated their overwhelming support for this amendment. Without question, the SIGIR’s oversight during this process has been essential to ensuring that the taxpayers’ dollars are being used effectively and efficiently.

Specifically, the legislation would reinstate the SIGIR’s previous termination schedule of ten months after 80 percent of funds for Iraq reconstruction have been expended. A recently enacted defense authorization bill includes a provision that would end the SIGIR’s oversight responsibilities next year. The Senators believe that the work of the SIGIR’s office, led by Stuart Bowen, is critical and has effectively rooted out millions of dollars of waste, fraud, and abuse, and therefore, must be continued.

The SIGIR’s office is responsible for oversight of approximately $32 billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts and grants. As a result of his work, the SIGIR estimates that the financial impact of his audits, investigations, and inspections, is approximately $1.87 billion, far exceeding the offices expenses of $72 million.

The SIGIR’s office has issued 73 audit reports and 65 project assessments, and the office’s work has resulted in the arrest of five people, and the convictions of four, with more than $17 million in assets seized.

Additional cosponsors of the bill include Senators Joseph Lieberman, (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Biden (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Norm Coleman (R-MN), John Kerry (D-MA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Sununu (R-NH), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Byron Dorgan (D-ND, Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Warner (R-VA), Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), Robert Bennett (R-UT), John McCain (R-AZ), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Bill Nelson (D-NE), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Hillary Clinton (D-NY)