9/1/15 Auditing Afghanistan

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There are more than 70 inspectors general assigned to various federal agencies and cabinets.  Some have had their work criticized.   The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction is a notable exception.  This IG –€“ commonly called SIGAR –€“ has received widespread bipartisan praise.

SIGAR oversees U.S. activity in Afghanistan.  Including the 100 billion-dollar reconstruction effortLast quarter, it “issued 21 audits, inspections, [and] alert letters.”  It identified corruption and contracting violations.  To date, it’s identified nearly 300 million-dollars in questionable spending and saved U.S. taxpayers more than 200 million-dollars.

In spite of all the good work, earlier this year the State Department ordered the SIGAR staff cut by 40%.  But the agency rescinded that order when media and watchdog organizations questioned the decision.

Now another development has eroded much of the SIGAR’€™s investigative independence.  The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act created a new entity.  It’€™ll manage overseas investigations for the Defense and State Departments and the U.S. Agency for International Development. 

The Lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency recently issued its first report.  Critics have described the report as full of flowery words and pretty pictures worthy of a P.R. campaign but absent any meaningful content.

Overseas contingency and reconstruction operations are notorious for waste and corruption.  Without a strong and independent IG, who will protect the interests of U.S. taxpayers in Afghanistan?

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