At an Aug. 2 hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGR), outlined the findings of two reports detailing myriad delays, cost overruns and instances of enormous waste that have characterized the reconstruction effort.

Stuart W. Bowen Jr. said the SIGIR Quarterly Report to Congress, and its Lessons Learned report, showed that while 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 "lend themselves to abuse." Bowen agreed that use of single-source contracts "should have ceased at the end of hostilities." But most contracts now are awarded under a competitive bidding process, he said.

Although several senators said delays and cost overruns pointed to contractor fraud and abuse, Bowen said problems stemmed more from inefficiencies in the procurement and management of the contracts, and that waste, not fraud, was the "pervasive issue."

Several senators expressed frustration on the lack of accountability. Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) noted the reports identify many problems, but "our frustration is [that] 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." She also criticized efforts to obligate the remaining $1.7 billion on projects that are not "fully fleshed out."

Bowen also listed recommendations from the Lessons Learned report. Key items include creating a new procurement regulation spe-cifically for contingency operations such as the one in Iraq, developing a short list of prequalified contractors with expertise in reconstruction projects and limiting sole-source and limited-competition projects.

For a copy of the report, go to http://www.sigir.mil/initiatives/lessonslearned.aspx.