By DANA LIEBELSON
The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) managed to release an audit on the State Department's poor handling of the Iraqi police force program on Monday, despite the agency's aggressive attempts to stonewall the investigation. According to the critical report, the Department has no specific plan to effectively assess the Iraqi police program as the U.S. pulls out of Iraq.
The State Department (DoS) has refused to make life easy for the SIGIR. The Washington Times reported in June that DoS was blocking inspectors from assessing the State’s multi-billion dollar Iraqi police training program.
In a hearing with the Commission on Wartime Contracting, Patrick Kennedy, DoS’s Under Secretary of State for Management, justified the decision by claiming SIGIR didn’t have jurisdiction for the investigation. He said, “SIGIR is perfectly free…to audit the reconstruction activities in Iraq. They are not free to audit the base element of the State Department. That is within the jurisdiction of three other entities.”
Stuart Bowen, the SIGIR himself, begged to differ. He told The Times, “It is simply a misapprehension to conclude that our jurisdiction only applies to bricks-and-mortar reconstruction. To the contrary, Congress charged us with overseeing the expenditure of funds in Iraq.”
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) succinctly said in a recent hearing: “I don’t think there’s ever too many auditors.”
The SIGIR audit berated DoS in its first sentence for failing to cooperate in the investigation, which “resulted in limited access to key officials and documents.” The IG was still able to complete the investigation however, through “limited discussions” and “documents obtained from other sources.”
The audit determined that DoS “does not have a current assessment of Iraqi police forces’ capabilities…such an assessment is essential for effective program targeting.” The report also pointed out that DoS does not have a specific plan with milestones and benchmarks to assess progress, and the department is lacking “transparency and accountability for costs and performance outcomes.”
SIGIR also wrote that DoS is only spending 12 percent of its total program funds on actually advising, mentoring and developing Iraqi police forces. The rest is going to security, life and mission support, and other overhead costs.
SIGIR recommended that DoS amend these issues, and also provide a written agreement with the Iraqi government ensuring U.S. financial participation and agreement with the program’s scope.
DoS’s refusal to cooperate with the IG, in addition to the audit’s negative findings, are worrying given that the U.S. is pulling all remaining troops out of Iraq by the end of the year, officially handing control over to the Iraqi police force and the State Department. According to Government Executive, most national security insiders are not optimistic about the DoS’s ability to assume control of the mission.
POGO told the paper, “The stakes are very high in Iraq, and we're very concerned that the State Department might not be fully prepared for the enormity of the job ahead."
DoS has also opposed the creation of a permanent Inspector General for contingency operations.
Dana Liebelson is POGO's Beth Daley Impact Fellow.
Photo of Iraqi police via Brehl Garza Photography.