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Tipsheet

'Fraud, Waste, and Abuse': Oversight Coming for Ukraine Aid

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool

More than $100 billion worth of taxpayer-funded aid has been sent to Ukraine for its fight against Russia, but where's it all gone? That's the question House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) and his fellow House Republicans want to answer. 

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"Since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago, Congress has provided more than $113 billion for security, humanitarian, economic, and governance assistance," Oversight Republicans said this week. "It is critical that government agencies administering these funds ensure they are used for their intended purposes to prevent and reduce the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse."

Given the federal government's reputation — and recent revelations about how much fraud took place in the distribution of COVID-era aid — the Oversight Committee should be scrutinizing the use of tax dollars in Ukraine to ensure Americans' aren't being defrauded or having their hard-earned tax dollars wasted. 

In order to conduct their work, Republicans on the committee are looking for "documents and information to understand how the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of State (State), and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) are conducting oversight of these funds."

As the Oversight Committee rightly notes in its letter to Biden administration officials, "[p]roviding security and humanitarian assistance for warfighting and reconstruction purposes comes with an inherent risk of fraud, waste, and abuse." 

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But, since the Biden administration has already sent billions to Ukraine — including another $500 million during the president's surprise visit to Ukraine this week — the "United States must identify these risks and develop oversight mechanisms to mitigate them."

The letter called out claims from the White House's John Kirby for saying in January that the Biden administration has "not seen any signs that our budgetary assistance has fallen prey to any kind of corruption in Ukraine" citing all direct funding "goes through the World Bank."

However, as Oversight Republicans noted, Kirby's claims "came one day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired several top Ukrainian officials amid a corruption scandal" who had "allegedly engaged in bribery, used government vehicles for personal use, and purchased inflated food supplies for Ukrainian forces."

"Based on Mr. Kirby’s remarks, however, the U.S. National Security Council appears unaware of this corruption scandal, heightening concerns that U.S. agencies are not conducting oversight of taxpayer assistance to Ukraine," the letter added.

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"We learned from efforts in Afghanistan that the World Bank does not always have effective monitoring and accounting of funds, and often lacks transparency," the Oversight Republicans reminded. "We also learned that unrealistic timelines and expectations that prioritize spending quickly lead to increased corruption and reduced effectiveness of programs." 

Similar to previous boondoggles, the letter also noted that when it comes to Ukraine, the U.S. "continues to filter assistance through multilateral organizations with pressure to spend funds quickly," making it even more necessary to "ensure proper protections are in place to prevent the misuse of funds."

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