Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), acting chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to reconsider a decision to eliminate the positions of key officials now overseeing development projects in Iraq. The plan to reduce drastically the number of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) auditors and investigators based in Baghdad became public over the weekend.

“I call on Secretary Rice to overturn the State Department’s order eliminating the USAID Inspector General’s permanent staff positions in Iraq. For nearly four years, USAID’s inspector general has worked diligently to ensure that the agency is a good steward of American taxpayer dollars in Iraq, providing effective oversight and evaluation of a broad range of projects. I see no logical reason why the State Department in Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad would want to impair the ability of the United States to monitor billions of dollars in U.S. foreign assistance. The inspector general and his staff in Iraq have served their country admirably in a war zone; cutting their positions is no way to repay such valued and important service.”
USAID currently has nine auditors and investigators working full-time to prevent waste, fraud and abuse of reconstruction and development funds in Iraq. The office of the agency’s inspector general confirmed that, citing security, the State Department had notified USAID that it would be left with two temporary duty officers who would serve in Baghdad on a rotating basis. The chief of staff to USAID’s inspector general said her office had “tried repeatedly to engage the State Department in a conversation on this issue,” but to no avail.

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