September 19, 2007 in Nation/World

Inspector general at State faulted

Glenn Kessler and Karen Deyoung Washington Post
 

WASHINGTON – Howard Krongard, the State Department’s inspector general, has repeatedly thwarted investigations into contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, including construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and censored reports that might prove politically embarrassing to the Bush administration, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform charged Tuesday in a 13-page letter.

The letter, addressed to Krongard and signed by the committee chairman, Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who released it Tuesday, said the allegations were based on the testimony of seven current and former officials on Krongard’s staff, including two former senior officials who allowed their names to be used, and private e-mail exchanges obtained by the committee.

Waxman demanded documents and testimony for a hearing next month into Krongard’s conduct.

A statement released by Krongard’s office said he had just completed a visit to Afghanistan and was “en route to Baghdad for the remainder of September.” In the statement, he described the allegations as “replete with inaccuracies including those made by persons with their own agendas” and said he looked forward to the opportunity to respond fully to the committee.

The letter alleges that Krongard “interfered with ongoing investigations to protect the State Department and the White House from political embarrassment.” It said that “your strong affinity with State Department leadership and your partisan political ties have led you to halt investigations, censor reports and refuse to cooperate with law enforcement agencies.”

The Senate confirmed President Bush’s nomination of Krongard, who had no previous State Department experience, in May 2005. He previously worked for an international law firm and had been general counsel for Deloitte & Touche in the mid-1990s.

Waxman accused Krongard of:

“Refusing to send investigators to Iraq and Afghanistan to investigate $3 billion worth of State Department contracts.

“Preventing his investigators from cooperating with a Justice Department probe into waste and fraud in the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

“Using “highly irregular” procedures to personally exonerate the embassy’s prime contractor of labor abuses.

“Interfering in the investigation of a close friend of former White House adviser Karl Rove.

“Censoring reports on embassies to prevent full disclosure to Congress.

“Refusing to publish critical audits of the State Department’s financial statements.

Waxman’s letter also said that Krongard’s actions have resulted in a “dysfunctional office environment in which you routinely berate and belittle personnel, show contempt for the abilities of career government professionals and cause the staff to fear coming to work.” The letter said high personnel turnover has left the office with many senior-level vacancies and only seven of 27 investigator positions filled.

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