A government watchdog has accused some bureaucrats of attempting to block him from being transparent in his reports.
John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction appointed last year to audit and investigate the billions of tax payer dollars spent down there, said during a speech at the New America Foundation on Wednesday that he has had to battle too many bureaucratic barriers.
According to Sopko, his job is to provide independent oversight on the tax dollars spent in Afghanistan and to report any and all waste. Sopko accused unnamed bureaucrats for telling him to stop publishing his audits revealing large degrees of waste and corruption in order to protect the administration’s image. Other government officials, according to Sopko, have complained about their inability to pre-screen or edit his reports.
“Since my appointment by the president last summer, I have been surprised to learn how many people both in and out of the government do not understand the role of an independent inspector general,” Sopko said, going on to accuse government officials of being too hostile.
“Over the last 10 months, I have been criticized by some bureaucrats for not pre-clearing my press releases with them, for not letting them edit the titles of my audits, for talking too much to Congress, for talking too much to the press … and, basically, for not being a 'team player' and undermining 'our country’s mission in Afghanistan,'” he continued.
Sopko has said he is in full support of the mission in Afghanistan and is working only to make it better.
“That is why I accepted the appointment. We must defeat the terrorists hiding in Afghanistan and build up an Afghan government capable of ensuring that Afghanistan will never again become a safe haven for those who want to harm the United States,” he said. Since taking office a year ago, Sopko has made more than 70 recommendations to improve efficiency and cut costs as much as $450 million.
Sopko’s accusations should not be taken lightly, but they do speak to a greater issue of how transparency and politics mix about as well as oil and water. Reports that reflect poorly on the administration likely won’t be read by Congress members as a call to correct wasteful spending, but rather as political capital to fuel the ineffective and partisan gridlock plaguing government decision making.