Funding for criminal inquiries of contracting in Iraq may be extended

Congress is expected to extend the operations of a watchdog office tasked with carrying out criminal inquiries of wartime contracting in Iraq, giving investigators more time to wrap up cases.

The move to fund the office, which otherwise would have had to shut down this spring, follows a Washington Post article that raised questions about the viability of dozens of criminal investigations of wartime contracting.

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Stuart W. Bowen, the head of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, said the agency, known as SIGIR, expects to obtain at least 20 additional convictions and secure up to $100 million in restitution, forfeiture orders and settlements by Sept. 30. The agency has more than 60 open criminal cases.

“This is good news, because otherwise these cases may have not been completed,” Bowen said.

The House approved legislation this week that would provide additional funding for the office; the Senate is expected to do the same next week.

Bowen said lawmakers and staff members on Capitol Hill called him to express concern about the investigations and to offer support to fund the agency for a few more months.

In addition to the criminal work, SIGIR expects to publish two more quarterly reports documenting developments in Iraq. This week it published its last major report on the United States’ $60 billion reconstruction effort.

The agency’s criminal investigators, who work alongside the FBI and other federal agencies, have secured 82 convictions, among them 47 military personnel. Those cases have led the agency to recover more than $191 million.

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