Senator Collins Works to Extend the Term of the Office that Oversees Billion in Iraqi Reconstruction Dollars

WASHINGTON, DC—Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) along with a number of their Senate Colleagues, have introduced legislation to 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.

Specifically, the legislation, which the Senators will try to move during the lame duck session of Congress, 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 spending 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.

Senator Collins said, “There is no question that the Special Inspector General’s office has proven to be a much-needed watchdog, auditing reconstruction contracts in Iraq and spotlighting numerous cases of waste, fraud, and abuse. We must keep the watchdog on the job. This office is responsible for providing the American taxpayer a benefit of more than $25 for every dollar it has spent on oversight and investigations. Its work has resulted in indictments and convictions of individuals who ripped off the taxpayer. 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, “We’re introducing this bill to prevent the SIGIR from being prematurely shut down and to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars for Iraq reconstruction efforts will not be vulnerable to even more waste, fraud and abuse,” Feingold said. “Without this commonsense, bipartisan legislation, Americans will not know where billions of their taxpayer dollars are going in this costly war.”

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), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).