December 8, 2007 in Nation/World

Official accused of impeding Iraq investigations resigns

William Branigin Washington Post
 

WASHINGTON – Howard Krongard, the State Department’s embattled inspector general, announced Friday that he is stepping down next month, ending a turbulent tenure in which he came under fire from employees and lawmakers and was accused of impeding key Iraq-related investigations.

Krongard, who took the inspector general’s job in 2005 after serving as counsel to several accounting and law firms, ran afoul of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in recent months over his stewardship of key investigations. He also came under criticism from State Department employees who chafed under what they described as his abrasive management style.

Current and former department officials have charged that Krongard blocked them from pursuing allegations of contract fraud and mismanagement in the construction of the $736 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, as well as alleged arms smuggling by Blackwater Worldwide, which has a State Department contract to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq.

In a statement, Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., essentially bade Krongard good riddance.

“Mr. Krongard’s decision removes an enormous distraction from the Inspector General’s office and will allow the office to focus on its important oversight responsibilities,” he said. “The committee will certainly take this new development into account.”

Krongard recused himself last month from the embassy and Blackwater investigations after Waxman’s committee confronted him with evidence of conflicts of interest, including his brother’s role as a strategic adviser to Blackwater.

In a hearing before the oversight panel, Krongard denied that he had impeded any investigations or taken any actions based on a partisan political agenda.

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