Feingold, Collins Provision To Watch Over Iraq Reconstruction Spending Included In Senate Foreign Ops Bill

Washington, D.C.- U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) today announced that their amendment to extend the mandate of and authorize funding for the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) had been adopted as part of the fiscal year 2006 Foreign Operations appropriations bill. The SIGIR office, which serves as a watchdog over the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars allocated for Iraq reconstruction, has been effective in its role, uncovering a wide range of problems with the use of taxpayer funds in Iraq. Without the Feingold-Collins provisions, the SIGIR office would have been forced to close down before the majority of reconstruction funds for Iraq have even been expended.

“American taxpayers have been asked to shoulder a tremendous burden when it comes to the reconstruction of Iraq,” Feingold said. “The Special Inspector General has been a critical watchdog for U.S. taxpayer dollars and has helped in exposing the often disorganized and sloppy management of the reconstruction effort. I am pleased that the Senate has agreed to extend the mandate of this office to help make sure that American tax dollars are being used effectively and efficiently, and to help our reconstruction effort succeed.”

The SIGIR’s tenure is currently due to expire 10 months after 80 percent of Iraqi relief and reconstruction funds are obligated, even if the money has not actually been spent. As a result, the SIGIR could expire well before all of the work that has been contracted has been performed and payments have been made. Current estimates are that Iraq reconstruction fund obligations could meet the 80 percent threshold by the end of July. The Feingold-Collins provision extends the SIGIR’s tenure by changing the termination date to 10 months after 80 percent of the funds are actually expended. The amendment also authorizes $30 million for the SIGIR.

“We need to extend the mandate of this office to help make sure that American tax dollars are being used as intended –to help our reconstruction effort succeed. Without the SIGIR’s experienced oversight, I fear that we may encounter an increase in fraud, waste, and abuse in the management and administration of Iraq reconstruction contracts,” said Collins. As Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees government contracting, Senator Collins meets and receives regular briefings from the SIGIR on the office’s ongoing work and findings.

In its last report, the SIGIR found indications of potential criminal activity in the case of the South-Central Iraq audit, where managers could not account for what happened to $96.6 million of$119.9 million that was disbursed in South-Central Iraq.

Feingold created the position of Inspector General (now known as SIGIR) through an amendment that he offered to a 2003 supplemental bill. Earlier this year, Feingold offered an amendment to the Iraq and Afghanistan supplemental bill to extend the mandate of the SIGIR. Unfortunately, Feingold’s amendment was defeated on a point of order. The provisions included in the Senate version today will now be debated in conference with the House bill. Feingold and Collins will push conferees to help ensure that the SIGIR will continue with its work.