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11 Jul, 2023 00:05

White House opposes independent oversight of Ukraine aid

President Joe Biden’s administration has urged lawmakers to drop plans for an inspector general to monitor assistance to Kiev
White House opposes independent oversight of Ukraine aid

President Joe Biden’s administration has objected to plans by US lawmakers to establish an independent inspector general who would scrutinize Washington’s massive military and economic aid packages for Ukraine.

At issue is a provision added to the $874 billion US defense budget for the government’s next fiscal year, calling for an additional oversight layer on Ukraine aid modeled after the inspector general established for reconstruction in Afghanistan.

Conservative lawmakers, including Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, have argued that the White House lacks adequate controls to prevent fraud and other misuse of the $113 billion in aid approved by Congress to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.

However, the administration argued on Monday that the Pentagon inspector general and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) were already working with relevant congressional committees to “ensure accountability” for Ukraine aid. The Pentagon inspector general and the GAO are currently conducting investigations of “every aspect of this assistance,” the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in a statement.

The White House also opposes an amendment to the defense bill that would expand the authority of the Afghanistan reconstruction inspector general. “This expansion is both unnecessary and unprecedented” because inspectors from both the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development already oversee the aid, the OMB said.

John Sopko, the independent inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, warned in February that strong safeguards were needed to prevent corruption from undermining Washington’s aid packages for Ukraine. Failure to learn from the US mistakes in Afghanistan, where much aid was “diverted or stolen,” could lead to a repeat in Ukraine.

“You’re bound to get corrupt elements of not only the Ukrainian or host government, but also of US government contractors or other third-party contractors to steal the money,” Sopko told Fox News.

Last year, Congress blocked an initiative spearheaded by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, to audit the aid to Kiev. 

Ukraine consistently ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky fired a number of top officials earlier this year for profiteering. An August 2022 report by CBS News indicated that only about 30% of the Western weaponry sent to Kiev was actually making it to the front lines because of waste and corruption.