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Oversight needed on war spending

November 1, 2010
The Daily Mining Gazette

Government is notorious for not worrying much about whether taxpayers' money is spent wisely. Wars are tailor-made situations for that attitude to flourish.

That is precisely what has happened with U.S. spending in both Afghanistan and Iraq. So loose are the controls over it that the waste may run into the billions of dollars.

Three key sources of spending for reconstruction projects in Afghanistan and Iraq have not even bothered to track contracts in a shared database, the special inspector general for the program revealed this week. The agencies are the Defense Department, state Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. Their failure to keep track of spending and share information about it involves obvious dangers.

For example: It also was revealed this week that a contractor hired by the Defense Department to build new police stations in Afghanistan did such shoddy work that the buildings are in danger of collapse. They can't be used. Lack of a shared database means the two other agencies might hire the same contractor because - unless, in effect, they read it in the papers - they would not know of the police station fiasco.

Inspector General Arnold Fields pointed out lack of the database poses other problems, too. It makes general oversight of reconstruction projects nearly impossible.

So, how difficult would it have been for the agencies to establish a database? Arnold's office, with resources much more limited than those at the three agencies, put one together itself.

Clearly, officials at the three agencies simply didn't worry about whether U.S. taxpayers' money was being spent wisely. Congress should demand that attitude change.



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