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Special Inspector General for Ukrainian Aid (SIGUA)

Updated: May 15

Big Picture

The largest European war since World War II is raging on between Russia, a great power, and Ukraine, the most impoverished nation in Europe. Russia invaded Ukraine, looking to annex territory, which is illegal under international law. The discrepancy between the two warring economies and militaries leaves Ukraine at an extreme disadvantage. To prevent a disastrous defeat, many Western nations have sent billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine. The United States in particular has sent around 74 billion in aid to Ukraine in the past two years. That is more than the military aid sent to the failed Islamic Republic of Afghanistan between 2001-2021.  


As it is unlikely the US will cease the spending of aid to Ukraine, avoiding wasteful spending is essential going forward. A Special Inspector General of Ukrainian Aid (SIGUA) should oversee the effectiveness of spending and the allocation of aid as well as audit the usage of aid sent to the country. 


Operative Definitions

  1. SIGUA: Special Inspector General for Ukrainian Aid. The proposed office would be formed specifically to oversee all future aid sent to Ukraine. Modeled after the SIGAR. 

  2. SIGAR: Special Inspector General for Afghanistan, an office tasked with oversight of the military aid sent to Afghanistan. Formed in 2008 and charged with overseeing the reconstruction and allocation of aid to Afghanistan. SIGAR’s goal was to audit, inspect, and promote the efficiency of funds sent to Afghanistan. 

  3. GAO: Government Accountability Office, is the financial watchdog for the legislative branch. It oversees all funds allocated by Congress, it audits, analyzes, and reports on these funds and their allocation. It is currently charged with overseeing the $2.68 trillion Congress will spend in 2024, along with funds sent to Ukraine.

  4. OIG: Office of the Inspector General, a generic term for the office that inspects funds for federal or state governments. There are dozens of OIGs under this umbrella but only three special offices have ever been formed. One of which was SIGAR. SIGUA would be one of these.

  5. Russia: The Russian Federation has been based in Moscow since 1991. It is the largest nation on earth, covering ⅙ of its landmass. Due to this size, Russia is not as definable as a nation-state the way other European states are. It is a multinational state meaning it is composed of many different ethnic groups across Eurasia. It was an Empire for centuries until its transformation into the Soviet Union or USSR. Both the Russian Empire and the USSR expanded beyond Russia, into regions such as Eastern and Central Europe and the Caucasus. After the economic toll the Cold War had on the USSR, it unexpectedly collapsed into 15 independent states including the Russian Federation. Belarus (White Russia) and Ukraine, or in Russian, Malorus (Little Russia), are the two most important of these states. These nations are ethnically and linguistically Russian, and they have been adjoined to Moscow since the 18th century. Belarus is on course to become a union state with Russia. But the complex relationship has led to many struggles, specifically between the independent Ukraine and the Russian Federation. This culminated in the annexation of Crimea (the historical home of much of the Russian Navy), a war in East Ukraine in 2014, and finally the full-scale invasion of Ukraine 2022-present.  

  6. Ukraine: An ex-Soviet nation which was made independent in 1991. Ethnically and linguistically the nation is Russian, it has been so for centuries as it was long a part of the Russian Empire. There has been a nationalist movement in Ukraine since the late 19th century however, and this has led to multiple quarrels with Russia over the status of Ukraine as an independent state. Wars between the Ukraine and the Russian state in the form of the Soviet Union coincided with both the Russian Revolution and World War II. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991 Ukraine left the Soviet Union, becoming a sovereign state. It is the largest European nation, and the poorest in terms of GDP per capita. Many political developments since then have raised tensions between Moscow and Kiev climaxing in the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and a secessionist war in the Donbas in Eastern Ukraine. After the failure of both Minsk I and Minsk II peace deals, Russia initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022. The war is ongoing. It is the largest war in Europe since World War II. 

  7. Russo-Ukrainian War: The conflict that began in 2014 in Eastern Ukraine in the Donbas between secessionists and the Ukrainian government. Two peace treaties were signed in 2014, Minsk I & II. These were overridden in 2022 once the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine began. This war is ongoing as Ukraine has been given aid from 47 nations in order to continue to fight the Russian state.  


Important Facts and Statistics

  1. The US has sent $74 billion to Ukraine in two years. 

  2. The US spent $72 billion over 20 years during the failure of US intervention in Afghanistan.

  3. Aid sent to Ukraine comes in the form of hardware, ammunition and liquid assets. 

  4. The war in Ukraine greatly affects the price of food and energy globally. Russia is a leading nation in petroleum and grain production. Ukraine is also a leading grain producer and the number one producer of sunflower oil. The war has halted much of this consequently impacting prices around the world. 

  5. Ukraine has arrested military officials over fraud and has had many instances of corruption, inciting a need for closer surveillance of funds.

  6. The GAO and OIG are charged with overseeing $2.68 trillion annually including aid for the war in Ukraine.


3 Point Plan

(1) Submit a bill that creates an office to provide independent and objective oversight of all aid sent to Ukraine. This will allow Congress to regulate the funds being sent to Ukraine in a way which is not partisan or political. 

(2) Establish the office of the Special Inspector General for Ukrainian Aid (SIGUA). 

This office will be modeled on SIGAR, which oversaw, audited and inspected the allocations of funds to Afghanistan between 2008-2021. SIGUA will not only promote effectiveness but also prevent waste and corruption regarding the billions of dollars being sent to Ukraine. 

(3) SIGUA will release quarterly reports to Congress on the allocated funds, audits, effectiveness of investments and any conclusions regarding solutions to potential problems and important developments in the financial situation on the ground.

This will make the data collected from SIGUA public and transparent to both voters and lawmakers alike. Further allocation can be decided based on this information.  


Why This Initiative is Important

The many billions being sent to aid Ukraine is an unprecedented amount of aid in such a short time span. The US is funding a substantial part of the war in Ukraine and the upkeep of its government. While the necessity to continue the allocation of aid is debatable, this is the course of action that has been taken. 


The immense amount of money diversified into many assets and forms of allocation is very difficult to track. There have been instances of hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars disappearing or being unaccounted for through the negligence of messy bureaucratic processes. While these are unavoidable realities of funding a foreign war, SIGUA would be uniquely capable of focusing solely on this task and would specialize in waste prevention. Currently, the GAO and the OIG are tasked with the responsibility of overseeing aid to Ukraine. These institutions are unable to focus solely on the unique and unprecedented scale of the conflict as well as are forced to balance it with their other natural responsibilities.   


In order to minimize the inevitable wastefulness and corruption, that will come about as a result of both the nature of war and the incalculable amount of aid being sent, a specifically tailored authority must be tasked with oversight. Ukrainian authorities, some of whom have already been arrested and charged with corruption, fraud and theft, will be tempted to take advantage of American generosity. So too will American defense contractors be tempted to lobby for aid to go directly to them in order to sell old weapon stocks and fund new ones. Many interested parties around the globe other than these can be deterred or intercepted from committing fraud or corruption through SIGUA. 


Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources

“20 Years of US Military Aid to Afghanistan.” SIPRI

“Fiscal Data Explains Federal Spending.” Federal Spending | U.S. Treasury Fiscal Data

“How Much Aid Has the U.S. Sent Ukraine? Here Are Six Charts.” Council on Foreign 

Relations

“Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.” SIGAR, www.sigar.mil/. Accessed 3 April 2024.

"Ukraine Says It Uncovers Mass Fraud in Weapons Procurement." Reuters, www.reuters.com/world/europe/ukraine-uncovers-mass-fraud-weapons-procurement-security-service-2024-01-27/. Accessed 4 April 2024. 



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