The Biden administration’s pick for a watchdog at the U.S. Agency for International Development said that a special inspector general for Ukraine sought by some lawmakers could create bureaucratic confusion, and suggested that, instead, oversight offices should find ways to leverage more staff.
“You have three inspectors general who have the authority and who already have the mechanisms and the agreements with Ukrainian officials,” said Paul K. Martin, who currently serves as NASA’s inspector general. “To superimpose a new inspector general on top of that, I think, would be counterproductive.”
Speaking to lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday, Martin said it would take considerable time and effort to set up another office that would inevitably conflict with the work of current inspectors general at USAID, the State Department and the Pentagon who track aid to Ukraine.
“I think it’s best to continue to rely on the three offices of inspector general who currently have jurisdiction there,” he said. “My sense is that the offices of inspector general are funded well enough at this point, but I would suggest that any additional supplemental appropriations to Ukraine have a small sliver for the oversight component, as well.”
Martin is up for the top investigator position at USAID after the White House decided not to nominate Nicole Angarella, the agency’s acting official, for the position. State also lacks a Senate-confirmed inspector general.
A White House official told Federal Times that Martin was tapped, in part, for his 25 years of experience and good standing in the watchdog community, and his role as vice chair on the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.
The idea of a special Ukraine inspector general was not a new idea brought up during the hearing. With roughly $100 billion sent to Ukraine to date and many federal agencies lending support for the effort, lawmakers have been concerned about opportunities for fraud. And if confirmed, Martin would work alongside the departments of State and Defense on the Joint Strategic Oversight Plan for Ukraine response that published last January to ensure aid is continuously accounted for.
The White House, too, has said it opposes creating a special inspector general for Ukraine aid, as was proposed in Republicans’ defense policy bill, Defense News previously reported.
Some have argued oversight for foreign aid should be the responsibility of the agencies who distribute them, thereby making an additional body redundant financially and operationally. Others, however, have said that with such a complex situation merits an overarching authority with a whole-of-government view.
Martin said it would help to get more permanent “boots on the ground” auditors and investigators cleared to work onsite, though that can sometimes be a challenge because the number of individuals who are permitted at embassies is controlled by the State Department for security reasons.
In spending bills that were proposed this fall but failed to pass, lawmakers considered boosts to USAID’s inspector general office after staffing shortages in recent years.
USAID is a federal agency responsible for coordinating civilian foreign aid and development assistance. It employs more than 10,000 people.
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.