U.S. Senate Approves Bill to Extend the Term of the Iraq Special IG

The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a bill authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Norm Coleman (R-MN), and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) that would extend the term of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). Without this legislation, the SIGIR’s term would expire on October 1, 2007. This legislation, which now goes to the House, would enable the SIGIR to continue his critical oversight work until late 2008. The bill now must be approved by the House.

Similar to an amendment to the 2007 Military Construction Appropriations bill that was also sponsored by the Senators and approved last month, this bill would reinstate the SIGIR’s previous termination schedule of 10 months after 80 percent of funds for Iraq reconstruction have been expended. A recently enacted defense authorization bill included 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.

“I am pleased that we were able to move this critical bill at such a crucial time,” said Senator Collins. “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’m pleased that the Senate has put the interests of American taxpayers first by extending the term of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. By passing this bipartisan legislation, the Senate worked to ensure that this critical office can continue its successful role as a watchdog over reconstruction efforts in Iraq. 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 and today’s passage in the Senate brings us closer to making sure that it does. I look forward to the bill’s quick passage by the House of Representatives and the President signing it into law.”

“I am pleased that this bill has garnered bipartisan support, as bringing our oversight efforts of the Iraq reconstruction process to a premature end is unacceptable,” said Senator Coleman. “The work of the Special Inspector General has been indispensable to these efforts. SIGIR’s oversight during this process has been essential to ensuring that the taxpayers’ dollars are being used effectively and efficiently.”

Senator Lieberman said, “Senate approval of this bill is reassurance to the American taxpayer that we will vigilantly track the spending of their hard–earned tax dollars. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has done an outstanding job uncovering billions of dollars wasted through fraud and mismanagement of Iraqi projects. His work is critical to our mission in Iraq, and I urge the House to act quickly to ensure that funds for Iraqi reconstruction are well spent.”