A new report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGR) makes several recommendations for streamlining and improving efficiency on Iraq reconstruction efforts. Chief among them: the United States should create a new contingency federal acquisition regulation to remove bureaucratic hurdles on contingency operations such as the one in Iraq. The report also recommended that procurement officers develop a short list of pre-qualified contractors with expertise in reconstruction projects and limit sole-source and limited-competition projects.
The "Lessons Learned" report and the SIGR Quarterly Report to Congress, both released this week, describe a quagmire of delays, cost overruns and enormous waste that occurred largely due to a lack of government planning, limited oversight and problems with security.
At an Aug. 2 hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq Reconstruction, outlined recommendations from the "Lessons Learned" report on the Iraq reconstruction effort as well as the findings of the quarterly report.
Bowen said that although progress has been made in the reconstruction effort, the government�s failure to clearly define responsibilities and roles at the outset "resulted in a fragmented system that foreclosed the opportunity to collaborate and coordinate the contracts for procurement."
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) criticized the lack of competition in the construction process and said that large contracts awarded to single contractors "end themselves to abuse."
Bowen agreed that "the use of single-source contracts should have ceased at the end of hostilities." However, most contracts now are awarded under a competitive bidding process, he said.
Although several of the senators on the panel said that the delays and cost overruns pointed to contractor fraud and abuse, Bowen said that the problems stemmed more from inefficiencies in the procurement and management of the contracts, and that waste, not fraud, was the "pervasive issue."
Several of the senators expressed frustration on the lack of accountability for the mistakes made in Iraq. Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) said that although the reports identify many problems, "Our frustration is�we don�t know who is going to fix these problems and who is going to hold contractors accountable if they fall down on the job."
Collins also criticized the current effort to obligate the remaining $1.74 billion remaining of the total $21 billion allocated before Sept. 30�the date the funds expire�to projects that are not "fully fleshed out."
�To have almost $2 billion floating around this way is utterly unacceptable and will undoubtedly lead to wasteful spending, questionable obligations and excessive costs,� she said.
For a copy of the report, go to http://www.sigir.mil/initiatives/lessonslearned.aspx