Senate Approves Senator Collins’ Bill to Extend the Term of the Special IG for Iraqi Reconstruction

The U.S. Senate has approved legislation authored by Senators Susan Collins and Russ Feingold (D-WI) 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.

“I am pleased by the strong support for the Collins-Feingold Amendment and that our colleagues in the Senate recognize how crucial it is for the SIGIRs 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.”

Specifically, the Collins-Feingold 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. Senator Collins believes 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)