WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan group of four Senators, including Senator Susan Collins, today called on President Barack Obama to fire the government watchdog responsible for investigating tax dollar misuse in Afghanistan amid mounting evidence of incompetence and mismanagement. Along with Senator Collins, Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Charles Grassley (R-IA), sent a letter asking the President to remove Arnold Fields as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
“The President needs to take decisive action to remedy this serious situation. With billions of American taxpayer dollars at risk of waste, fraud and abuse, there must be stringent oversight of Afghanistan reconstructions efforts,” said Senator Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“I am gravely concerned that SIGAR – the very institution charged with preventing wasteful and abusive contracting in Afghanistan – has itself executed a questionable, sole-source contract with dubious justification in a misguided effort to improve its past poor performance,” Senator Collins said. “This is another example of SIGAR’s poor judgment and we can no longer waste time and resources trying to get this right. I urge the President to act now.”
According to the letter: “It has been clear for several months that SIGAR’s mission is not being served effectively. It is for this reason that we have concluded that SIGAR would be better served with new leadership.”
Over the past 18 months, all four senators have repeatedly raised concerns regarding SIGAR’s performance, but recent actions by Fields have spurred the senators to more aggressively press the president for action. Fields exhibited questionable judgment by entering into a no-bid $95,000 contract with Joseph Schmitz as a consultant for the agency. Schmitz, a former Department of Defense Inspector General, resigned among serious allegations of misconduct, including obstructing criminal investigations, quashing audits, and misleading Congress. He has been hired to independently monitor SIGAR’s performance in implementing the recommendations of Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE). CIGIE is an independent government organization that reviews the work of inspectors general and found earlier this year a number of serious deficiencies in SIGAR’s performance.
Beyond calling for Fields’ dismissal and expressing outrage over the hiring of Schmitz, the senators also expressed their frustration with the president’s failure to change SIGAR leadership sooner.
“We urge you to act now. We are disappointed by your Administration’s ongoing failure to take decisive action to improve SIGAR,” they wrote in the letter.
CIGIE recently released three reviews of SIGAR, and found numerous problems with the agency’s work, including their failure to meet minimum standards for their investigations. The reviews also found that the agency has no meaningful strategic plan for their audits and investigations and that leadership at SIGAR remains more concerned with the quantity of their work rather than the quality.
A copy of the letter is available here.