Funding for SIGIR to Expire in March

By John Lee.

Washington Post reports that the mandate and funding of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), which was established in October 2004, is due to expire in March, marking what it describes as the end of an effort to document and fix the myriad failings of the most ambitious U.S. rebuilding effort since the Marshall Plan.

SIGIR investigators uncovered scores of plots to defraud the reconstruction efforts, including cases where corrupt officers ratted out by spurned wives.

"Military officials accepted first-class tickets from contractors so they could hide their exploits in bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and Thailand. One soldier mailed stolen cash wrapped in American flags. Another particularly clever attempt to haul stacks of stolen cash to the United States involved stitching them into a Santa Claus costume", says the article.

"This is a tiny if disgraceful minority", agency head Stuart W. Bowen (pictured) said. "A lot of these cases came to light deep into the reconstruction experience, which by then had been recognized to have fallen short of its goals."

The agency's investigations have resulted in 81 convictions, including those of 47 military personnel, with more defendants awaiting trial, and authorities have recovered more than $189 million.

Some of the open probes may lead to indictments before SIGIR shuts down, officials said. The agency said it is working with lawmakers in the House and Senate in hopes Congress will find the money to preserve its 21-person investigative team for the remainder of this year. If that effort fails, several of the open cases are likely to stall because they are unlikely to become priorities for federal law enforcement agencies.

(Source: Washington Post)

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