OPINION: We Must Stop Fraud And Abuse In Wartime Contracts - Southern Maryland Headline News

OPINION: We Must Stop Fraud And Abuse In Wartime Contracts

By U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin

Since the beginning of the Iraq War, the United States has sent more than $500 billion to Iraq with few or no controls on how that money is spent. Recent government audits confirm that, without adequate administration oversight, fraud and abuse in wartime contracts have run rampant in Iraq.

According to auditors, $1 out of every $6 spent in Iraq reconstruction may be subject to fraud or abuse. The Congressional Research Service reports that the United States has spent more than $437 billion on the Iraq War, with an additional $100 billion to be spent this year. Much of this money goes to civilian contractors, and given the 1 in 6 statistic, large amounts will be unaccounted for.

USA Today recently reported that government auditors found that Kellogg, Brown & Root Inc. (KRB), a formerly wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton, had proposed charging $110 million for services on bases that had been shut down and an additional $50 million for duplicated charges and math errors. Through October 2006, KBR has been paid more than $20 billion.

The American taxpayer is footing the bill for the War in Iraq and we in Congress have an obligation to ensure that their money is spent only for the equipment needed by our troops and on the effort to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure. I am deeply concerned by reports of fraud, abuse and waste, and I want to establish a mechanism to make sure U.S. dollars are spent as intended.

I have co-sponsored the Commission on Wartime Contracting Establishment Act, S. 1825, to put an end to the fraud and abuse that has plagued contracts in Iraq. This legislation would create an independent expert commission to study and investigate wartime contracts granted since 9/11, and investigate waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in consultation with the Special Investigator General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and the Department of Defense (DOD) Inspector General (IG).

It also would investigate the impact of the government’s growing reliance on civilian contractors to perform wartime functions. It will assess the extent of waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement of wartime contracts, and the extent to which those responsible have been held accountable.

The Commission will release an interim report within one year and a final report in two years regarding its findings. The final report will include recommendations regarding improvements to the contracting process, specifically contract development, award, management, oversight, accountability, appropriateness of tasks, and structure of DOD.

The SIGIR, in consultation with the Commission, will conduct audits of agency contracts to identify potential waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. Specifically, audits will examine development, award, terms and conditions, contractor cost controls, agency management, oversight, adequacy of contracting personnel, coordination with commanders, appropriateness of functions. SIGIR will refer appropriate cases to the Attorney General for prosecution.

We are spending millions of dollars a day in Iraq and it’s critical that we develop a systemic approach to ensure that we have maximum accountability and transparency in government contracts.

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