Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New Legislation to Save SIGIR

The New York Times is reporting that Congressional Democrats will introduce new legislation next week that will renew the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s (SIGIR) mandate to oversee reconstruction efforts in Iraq while greatly increasing its investigative reach. This is in response to a recent Republican-backed provision sneaked into a large military authorization bill that called for the closure of the SIGIR office in one year.

This is great news. It has become clear from the errors committed during this conflict by firms such as Halliburton and Parsons that oversight in Iraq is fundamental to our reconstruction efforts there. Besides the billions of taxpayer dollars being wasted, lackluster reconstruction efforts can endanger lives and will only prolong US involvement in Iraq.

Since its inception in 2004, SIGIR has saved US taxpayers approximately $405.1 million and its investigations have led to several convictions of American occupation officials on bribery charges. Its latest report, published in October, which I discussed extensively in an earlier blog posting, provided a detailed analysis of what progress has been made on the ground and where the most significant problems lie. SIGIR’s investigations of Halliburton alone uncovered tens of millions of dollars of wasted funds and found that the company has been exploiting a federal loophole to keep its activities in Iraq confidential.

One of the greatest problems in Iraq is a lack of oversight: Contractors and firms are not being held accountable for their actions. It should be inconceivable that the US do away with one of the only bodies that is successfully monitoring this phase in the Iraq conflict.

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