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Inspector General: Oversight, Accountability Critical to Wartime Contracting

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2009 – Accountable and properly overseen contracting procedures that safeguard taxpayer dollars are critical to supporting the war efforts and warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Defense Department inspector general told a congressional panel on wartime contracting yesterday.

Thomas Gimble, the department’s principal deputy inspector general, joined his counterparts from the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development at a hearing of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Members of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction also testified.

The hearing was the first for the commission, established last year to improve accountability in wartime contracting. The commission was modeled after the Truman Committee that exposed $15 billion in contracting waste and fraud during World War II.

Gimble specifically called during yesterday’s hearing for increased oversight of property and cash accountability, the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, contingency contracting support and controls over contractor common access cards.

Contracting in a war zone, particularly in the rush to get vital equipment and supplies to warfighters, can increase the risk of fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement, he told the commission.

One of the bigger problems, he said, is inexperienced and overloaded contracting staffs and lack of adequate oversight.

“From the inception of the … global war on terrorism, military and civilian contract administration personnel engaged in contingency contracting designed to obtain much-needed goods and services as quickly as possible,” he said. “Contract administrators focused primarily on timely mission accomplishment, vs. ensuring the strict adherence to the traditional contract administration procedures.”

Many of these procedures, he said, are designed to reduce the risk of corruption and abuse.

Effective oversight requires “a sizeable cadre of highly trained government contracting personnel with specialized knowledge and significant acquisition expertise,” he said.

Gimble also called for civilian and military contract administrators and contract technical representatives to be career contracting professionals trained to recognize indicators of potential fraud, waste and abuse. In addition, he told the committee, contract administrators must be assigned reasonable workloads so they can provide effective oversight and identify potential fraud, waste and abuse.

“Every acquisition dollar that is not appropriately spent is a dollar that is not available to fund other top priorities of the Department of Defense and wastes taxpayer dollars,” Gimble told the commission.

“We are committed to providing effective and meaningful oversight that assists [the Defense Department] to address its challenges in conducting operations, safeguarding and deterring taxpayer monies from waste, fraud and abuse, and most importantly, ensuring our brave military, civilian, coalition, contractors and the Iraqi and Afghanistan citizens supporting a free and sovereign democratic state are as safe as possible.”

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