FLASHBACK: 109th Congress Tried To Defund Iraq Watchdog, Transfer Authority To Krongard

krongard3.gif Congress created the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) “to provide oversight of the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) and all obligations, expenditures, and revenues associated with reconstruction and rehabilitation activities in Iraq.”

SIGIR Stuart Bowen has provided an independent check on President Bush’s Iraq efforts, concluding that the administration’s post-war planning “was insufficient in both scope and implementation.” Last year, he reported that over $8.8 billion in funds meant for Iraq reconstruction could not be accounted for.

Not surprisingly, Bowen’s assessments have frustrated the Bush administration, which called them “too negative.” In 2006, the White House persuaded its conservative allies in the House Armed Services Committee, then led by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), to terminate the SIGIR position on Oct. 1, 2007. As Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone points out, oversight responsibility would have been transferred to embattled State Department IG Howard Krongard. The New York Times reported:

The idea, [committee spokesman] Mr. Holly said, was simply to return to a non-wartime footing in which inspectors general in the State Department, the Pentagon and elsewhere would investigate American programs overseas. The definite termination date was also seen as helpful for planning future oversight efforts from Bush administration agencies, he said.

The House Oversight Committee is currently investigating allegations that Krongard blocked investigations into fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in Iraq, working to “support the Bush Administration” rather than “act as an independent and objective check.” Because of this investigation, Krongard has now “recused himself from the State Department’s two main internal investigations in Iraq.”

Luckily, in Dec. 2006, Congress voted to restore Bowen’s tenure.