Yesterday the Senate approved an amendment to the Military Construction Spending bill that will allow the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), headed by Stuart Bowen Jr., to continue their oversight of Iraq reconstruction projects until late 2008. The office was recently scheduled to be shut down on October 1, 2007 by language incorporated into the recently passed Defense Authorization bill. This new amendment, approved last night by a voice vote, will overrule the previous closure date by incorporating a requirement that the office maintain operations until ten months after 80% of Iraq reconstruction funds have been spent.
SIGIR has provided Congress with a wealth of information in combating corruption, fraud, and waste in Iraq reconstruction projects. The office has produced 73 audit reports and 65 project assessments in their relatively short existence. Among some of their work is a recent report that found that thousands of weapons purchased with American dollars have gone missing. According to a press statement issued by Senator Feingold, one of the amendments authors, "[SIGIR] provides a $25 dollar benefit for every dollar spent on oversight and investigation." The amendment was introduced in a bipartisan effort by Senators Collins, Feingold, Lieberman, and Coleman and was cosponsored by 25 others.
POGO applauds the Senate for taking these steps to ensure that SIGIR can continue to provide the appropriate oversight in the Iraq reconstruction process. The reconstruction of Iraq has been plagued with cost overruns, corruption, and waste. SIGIR is the only office with the means to conduct these audits on the ground in Iraq. Their auditors risk their lives to ensure proper accountability and they deserve more than to have their hard work cut short.