U.S. to close Iraqi Reconstruction Oversight Agency: New York Times
MarketWatch | November 3, 2006
NEW YORK -- An obscure provision in a huge military authorization bill that President George W. Bush signed two weeks ago terminates the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction on Oct. 1, 2007, The New York Times reported Friday.
The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation, the newspaper reported.
The federal oversight agency, led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr., has sent U.S. occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton Co. and Parsons Iraq Joint Venture, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces, The Times added.
The office was always envisioned as a temporary organization, and some advocates for the office have regarded its lack of a permanent bureaucracy as the key to its aggressiveness and independence, The Times said.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who followed the bill closely as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, said she still does not know how the provision made its way into what is called the conference report, which reconciles differences between House and Senate versions of a bill, the newspaper reported.
Neither the House nor the Senate version contained such a termination clause before the conference, all involved agree, the report said.
A Republican spokesman for the committee, Josh Holly, said lawmakers should not have been surprised by the provision closing the inspector general's office because it "was discussed very early in the conference process," the report added.
The termination language, The Times said, was inserted into the bill by Congressional staff members working for Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and who declared on Monday that he plans to run for president in 2008.
"It appears to me that the administration wants to silence the messenger that is giving us information about waste and fraud in Iraq," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform.
Holly, who is the House Armed Services panel spokesman as well as a member of Hunter's staff, said that politics played no role and that there had been no direction from the administration or lobbying from the companies whose work in Iraq Bowen's office has severely critiqued, the report added.
US stops audit of Iraq rebuilding
BBC | November 3, 2006
A US government agency that has exposed corruption in Iraqi reconstruction projects will close in 2007.
Washington lawmakers have reacted with shock at the discovery that an obscure clause in a military spending bill will terminate the work of the auditor.
The Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has embarrassed the US administration with its reports on corrupt practices.
Critics of the government claim this is what lies behind its sudden closure.
Under the direction of Special Inspector General Stuart Bowen, the Office employs 55 auditors and inspectors.
His office has detailed successes among the many reconstruction projects, such as in the rebuilding of infrastructure essential for transport and education.
However, critics of President George W Bush's Iraq policy seized on the auditor's conclusion that the overall $20bn (£11.5bn) reconstruction effort was being hampered by inefficiency as well as attacks by insurgents.
The auditor recently reported that a subsidiary of Halliburton, the largest US civilian contractor in Iraq, had withheld information from US officials.
It said that KBR, formerly Kellogg Brown & Root, had systematically engaged in practices aimed at veiling the facts around its contracts.
The audit office began operations in March 2004 and has referred 25 criminal cases to the US Department of Justice, of which four have resulted in convictions.
Among its more notable findings was a report on the loss of 14,000 weapons destined for Iraqi government use. Many of these are believed to have found their way into the hands of insurgent groups after the Pentagon lost track of them.
In 2005, it issued a damning report citing "severe inefficiencies and poor management" at the body that ran Iraq before the recent elections, the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Republican Senator Susan Collins told the New York Times she was mystified about how the termination clause had found its way into the bill. Senator John Warner, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the newspaper he would push for an extension of Mr Bowen's charter.
Inspectors from other US government departments, such as the Pentagon, could take over some of the Iraq auditor's responsibilities. But the strength of Mr Bowen's operation lies in its strong presence on the ground in Iraq.
The Pentagon and other US bodies have been criticised by legislators for lacking an extensive network of auditors in Iraq itself.
Midnight Rider Terminates Iraq Reconstruction Watchdog
Mother Jones | November 3, 2006
Secreted into a military authorization bill that was signed by the president two weeks ago is a provision that will shutter the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction effective October 1, 2007. The office , headed by former White House official Stuart W. Bowen Jr., was established in October 2004 to investigate the potential fraud and abuse of reconstruction funds. Since then it has filed one explosive report after another, revealing, most recently, that the military could not account for hundreds of thousands of weapons it provided to Iraqi security forces. Perhaps Bowen's agency did its job a little too well.
The New York Times reports :
Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who followed the bill closely as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, says that she still does not know how the provision made its way into what is called the conference report, which reconciles differences between House and Senate versions of a bill. Neither the House nor the Senate version contained such a termination clause before the conference, all involved agree. It's truly a mystery to me, Ms. Collins said.
It's no longer a mystery. According to the Times , the provision was placed in the bill by Congressional staffers working for Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (who recently announced he's running for president in 2008).
I just can't see how one can look at this change without believing it's political, Rep. Henry Waxman told the Times .
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