By John Lee.
The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), Stuart Bowen (pictured), has found serious weaknesses in the government’s controls over Iraq reconstruction funds that put billions of American taxpayer dollars at risk of waste and misappropriation.
The precise amount lost to fraud and waste can never be known, but SIGIR believes it is significant. As of June 30, 2012, SIGIR audit reports had questioned $635.8 million in costs, and SIGIR Investigations, working with other agencies, had resulted in $176.84 million in fines, forfeitures, and other monetary results.
SIGIR audit reports identified internal control weaknesses such as inadequate reviews of contractors’ invoices, insufficient numbers of, or inadequately trained oversight staff, poor inventory controls, high staff turnover, poor recordkeeping, insufficient price competition by subcontractors, and weak oversight of cash disbursements.
For example, SIGIR’s audit of a DoS contract for Iraqi police training program support found that more than $2.5 billion in U.S. funds was vulnerable to fraud and waste as a result of poor DoS oversight. Another SIGIR audit of a DoD contract for warehousing and distribution services found that the contractor’s business systems had not been adequately reviewed. Business system reviews are the government’s primary control to ensure that prices paid are reasonable and allowable.
Weaknesses in internal controls open the door to opportunities for fraud and other illegal activities. As of June 30, 2012, SIGIR investigators, working with other agencies’ investigators, have developed information used to indict 87 individuals and convict 71 individuals for fraudulent activities including bribery, kick-backs, theft of government funds and property, inflated invoices, delivery of insufficient or inferior goods, and bid rigging.