This week, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) capped nearly ten years of oversight work with the release of its final report to Congress. Given the dire conditions existing in post-2003 Iraq, which have gotten considerably worse in recent months, the title of the opening chapter in the report could very well be SIGIR’s official motto: Oversight Under Fire.
If you read our blog or use our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, you are probably familiar with SIGIR, a federal agency created in 2004 to oversee the rebuilding of Iraq. SIGIR has produced hundreds of reports and studies that, in the unforgettable words of Special Inspector General Stuart Bowen, “tell an episodic story of waste.”
It’s a story with a mostly unhappy ending. As we blogged earlier this year, SIGIR warned that no one will ever know how the United States spent billions of dollars in Iraq over the past decade. According to SIGIR’s March 2013 audit report, at least $8 billion of the $53 billion spent up to that point was lost to fraud, waste, and abuse.
Nonetheless, you can’t help but feel somewhat encouraged by SIGIR’s final report. It recounts an impressive list of accomplishments:
- 220 audits
- 170 inspections
- 36 quarterly reports
- 9 “lessons learned” studies
- 3 special reports
- 1 evaluation
- a total of more than 20,000 pages of reporting
- 37 appearances providing testimony before Congress
Those audits, inspections, and investigations had tangible results:
- 90 convictions
- 106 contractor suspensions
- 139 contractor debarments
SIGIR issued a total of 487 recommendations for ways Congress, the military, and the executive departments can improve nearly every aspect of stabilization and reconstruction operations. One of the recommendations, the establishment of a permanent inspector general for contingency operations, was taken up by Congress in a bill introduced in June that would create the United States Office for Contingency Operations (USOCO).
The bottom line is that SIGIR, like all Inspectors General, delivered plenty of bang for the taxpayers’ buck. SIGIR provided nearly $2 billion in financial benefits, including nearly $645 million in direct savings and more than $192 million in court-ordered recoveries, at a cost to taxpayers of only $245 million. That’s a return of about $8 for every $1 invested in Iraq oversight.