State Department official accused of hiding problems

WASHINGTON — Howard Krongard, the State Department’s inspector general, has repeatedly thwarted investigations 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, signed by committee chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and released by the committee 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.

The letter said the allegations were not limited to a single unit or project, but concerned all three major divisions of Krongard’s office — investigations, audits and inspections.

Also under scrutiny is whether Blackwater USA, the private security firm banned this week from working in Iraq for the alleged killing of civilians, was “illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq,” according to the Associated Press.

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

The inspectors general of government departments and agencies are intended to be independent and objective investigators of fraud and waste.

The letter charged 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.”

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 Iraq; using “highly irregular” procedures to personally exonerate the embassy’s prime contractor of labor abuses; interfering in the probe of a close friend of former White House adviser Karl Rove; censoring reports on embassies to prevent full disclosure to Congress; and refusing to publish critical audits of the State Department’s financial statements.

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