Senators McCain and Reed Ask SIGAR for Information About Products Issued by Office of Special Projects

Washington, D.C. ­– Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent the following letter to The Honorable John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, requesting information about the SIGAR Office of Special Projects and its use of professional auditing and inspection standards. The text of the letter follows below:

Dear Inspector General Sopko:

Your report issued October 22, 2015 titled, “DOD’s Compressed Natural Gas Filling Station in Afghanistan: An Ill-conceived $43 Million Project” has captured media headlines and the attention of members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The strongly worded title, the nature and tone of some of the findings and the methodology of the report have led this committee to take a particular interest in understanding the basis for its findings and conclusions. 

This report is based on work conducted by your Office of Special Projects rather than the Audits or the Investigations directorates. We understand based on SIGAR’s Agency Protocols that Special Project reports are not Audits, Inspections, or Investigations, and as such they are not conducted in accordance with Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS) or the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) standards.

In 2012 almost 90 percent of SIGAR’s publicly issued products were reports conducted in accordance with GAGAS or CIGIE standards.  This has dropped to just over 50 percent in fiscal year 2015; by contrast Special Project products represented more than 40 percent of SIGAR’s publicly issued products.

Accordingly, we would like to know more about the purpose and scope of the Special Projects office and its publicly issued products in the context of SIGAR’s mission, vision, and values for conducting its work in an independent and objective fashion. 

Please provide a response to the following questions by December 4, 2015:

  • Why and when did SIGAR establish the Office of Special Projects? 
  • What is the organizational structure and leadership of the Special Projects office, and any differences from the other SIGAR directorates that conduct work and publish reports in support of SIGAR’s mission, vision, and values?
  • How many staff have you had working in the Office of Special Projects (broken down by each fiscal year since it was established)?
  • How do you determine whether to undertake work as an Audit, Investigation, Inspection, or Special Project?
  • When you begin a Special Project and request information from an agency, do you advise the agency that the work is a Special Project versus an Audit, Inspection, or Investigation?
  • Do you conduct your Special Projects work under standards other than GAGAS or CIGIE, and if so, what are those standards?
  • Please provide a list of all Special Project reports (including Alerts) that were associated with a subsequently issued Audit, Inspection, or Investigation report (report titles and numbers).
  • How do you assure the quality of the publicly issued reports associated with Special Projects?
  • How have Special Project reports been incorporated into internal and/or external quality assurance reviews such as Peer Review?

In discussion with your staff on November 23, 2015, we understand that the report “DOD’s Compressed Natural Gas Filling Station in Afghanistan: An Ill-conceived $43 Million Project” went through a quality assurance process that included referencing.

  • Please provide in detail, the quality assurance process that was followed, including, to the extent that such documentation exists:
    • Evidence of stakeholders or special expertise (for example, methodologist, economist, general counsel)
    • Type of referencing used (partial or full)
    • Versions of the draft report before and after referencing, including indexing and referencing comments
    • Draft report with management/review signature
    • Draft report that was sent to DOD for comment
    • Reviewed and approved project management file

Sincerely,

John McCain

Chairman

Senate Armed Services Committee

Jack Reed

Ranking Member

Senate Armed Services Committee

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