To increase accountability for both the government and its contractors, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Jim Risch (R-ID) today are introducing legislation that would require federal agencies to notify Congress and publicly justify their actions when they ignore or defy recommendations of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
SIGAR oversees $89.5 billion in reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan and issues quarterly reports detailing investigations into contractors who are inefficient or who are guilty of waste, fraud and abuse. These findings are reported back to federal agencies, who are charged with following up with contractors to recover any wasted taxpayer money. The Shaheen-Risch Afghanistan Contractor Accountability Act requires agencies to explain to Congress any instance in which they do not reply to or disagree with a finding from SIGAR worth at least $500,000 in potential damages from a contractor. The legislation follows the Air Force's reversal of such a decision following an inquiry by Shaheen.
"In 2008, Congress created the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction to ensure proper oversight of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan," Risch said. "Congress must be fully aware of any efforts to ignore the findings of SIGAR and those who may attempt to bend the rules. It is imperative that we account for all taxpayer dollars spent in Afghanistan and ensure that fraud, waste and abuse is not occurring for any reason."
"We have an important watchdog in place in Afghanistan, and we must ensure that agencies and contractors are paying appropriate attention," Shaheen said. "These reconstruction dollars are a good investment in our national security and will allow us to end our involvement in Afghanistan responsibly. But they are also being spent at a rapid pace and far from public scrutiny, so we must be especially vigilant in ensuring that they are spent wisely. This bill will allow Congress to keep a close eye on any decision to ignore the Inspector General's findings."
Senators Shaheen and Risch have both been strong voices in pushing for greater accountability of taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan. Along with her inquiry on the Air Force contract, Shaheen has pushed for effective and coordinated oversight to ensure efficient use of civilian aid and helped to secure the appointment of an empowered senior civilian coordinator in Afghanistan.
Risch is the ranking member of the subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs with jurisdiction over State Department and USAID activities in Afghanistan. He has reviewed operations in Afghanistan and receives regular updates on activities in the country.