White House orders review of Afghan reconstruction reviewers
The White House announced Thursday afternoon that it had requested a panel of inspectors general across the government "review" the operations of the congressionally-mandated Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.
The announcement gave no explanation other than stating that "strong and effective IG operations in Afghanistan are important" to its efforts to "fight waste, fraud and abuse" in Afghanistan.
A senior administration official said that "there were concerns about SIGAR," as the office is called.
The review, to be conducted by the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, follows a letter sent to President Obama last December by three Senators -- Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.) -- asserting that "SIGAR currently may be unable to perform its mission at a time when the need for aggressive, independent oversight is greater than ever." The Senators described what they said was SIGAR's difficulty in recruiting qualified staff, especially among those leaving its sister organization, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.
The letter -- and the new IG review -- highlight a running competition between the SIGAR and SIGIR, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The latter organization's mandate is running out along with U.S. reconstruction money in Iraq, and some officials in the Afghan office have worried that their Iraq counterparts are interested in taking over both organizations.
Although SIGIR has been hailed for uncovering massive amounts of waste and fraud in Iraq, SIGAR was slow to get off the ground after it was established in 2008, in part because Congress initially failed to fully fund it.
In addition to issuing quarterly reports, SIGAR has conducted dozens of audits and investigations of the $51.5 billion Congress has appropriated for Afghanistan reconstruction since 2002. More than half of that money has gone to support building the Afghan security forces.
Among other reviews, three SIGAR audits of garrisons built to house the rapidly growing Afghan national army found that the Afghan government was unable to maintain and operate the U.S.-funded facilities. A new Defense contract of $800 million is being awarded to operate the garrisons for the next five years. The administration has asked for an additional $20 billion in reconstruction funds for 2011.
| July 16, 2010; 10:38 AM ET
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