How important are federal inspectors general (IGs)? Sometimes, they can be a matter of life and death.
On Wednesday, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) issued a safety alert letter warning U.S. commanders in Afghanistan of a heightened IED (improvised explosive device) threat due to the lack of culvert denial systems on roads around the country.
As described on this Army website, culvert denial systems are devices used to block unauthorized access to culverts, which are structures that channel water beneath roads, railways, and embankments. Culverts can also be used for more nefarious purposes, such as hiding IEDs.
In the one-page letter, Special Inspector General John F. Sopko warned of “potentially significant contract fraud in the installation and inspection of culvert denial systems” that poses a threat to the safety of U.S. forces:
Through our preliminary investigative work, we estimate that a large number of culvert denial systems might have been falsely reported by Afghan contractors as complete when, in fact, the denial systems were not installed or were installed in a defective manner, rendering them ineffective and susceptible to compromise by insurgents seeking to emplace IEDs.
IGs play a vital role in rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse in federal spending, saving taxpayers billions of dollars every year. Who knew they are equally vital in saving lives?
Neil Gordon is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Image is a U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Ortiz.