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Republicans promise to audit President Biden’s Ukraine aid

By Ben Marquis
|
February 24, 2023

President Joe Biden just returned from a trip to Eastern Europe that included a surprise visit to Ukraine and the promise of additional financial and military assistance for that beleaguered nation's defense against the ongoing Russian invasion and occupation.

On the final day of that trip, however, the Republican-led House Oversight and Accountability Committee announced in a letter that it was prepared to audit the entirety of U.S. assistance to Ukraine for any sort of waste, fraud, and abuse, the Daily Mail reported.

That effort would appear to be in line with the prior vow from Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA-20) that a GOP-controlled Congress would no longer provide a "blank check" for assistance to Ukraine without any oversight or accountability for how the funds are used.

Time for some actual oversight and accountability

Led by Republican House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (KY-01), the committee Republicans sent the letter announcing the audit on Wednesday to Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power.

"The Committee on Oversight and Accountability is conducting oversight of the federal government’s administration of U.S. taxpayer-funded assistance to Ukraine," the lawmakers wrote. "Since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago, Congress has provided more than $113 billion for security, humanitarian, economic, and governance assistance."

"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," they continued.

Thus, a demand for certain "documents and information" about how the three named agencies are "conducting oversight of these funds."

No evidence of corruption ... but is anybody even looking?

The letter pointed to a questionable assertion in January from National Security Council spokesman John Kirby about how "We have not seen any signs that our budgetary assistance has fallen prey to any kind of corruption in Ukraine," and how all of the financial assistance to Ukraine was funneled through the World Bank.

However, the Committee Republicans took note of the recent and ongoing corruption and bribery scandal in Ukraine involving numerous high-ranking officials and suggested that, "based on Mr. Kirby's remarks," it appeared that the Biden administration and NSC were "unaware of this corruption scandal, heightening concerns that U.S. agencies are not conducting oversight of taxpayer assistance to Ukraine."

They also highlighted the often ineffective and non-transparent "monitoring and accounting of funds" by the World Bank, as evidenced by the rampant corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse of assistance to Afghanistan over the years, as well as the increased risk for such under the pressure of "unrealistic timelines and expectations" and demands for funds to spent quickly.

"All documents and communications"

The Oversight Committee Republicans' letter then made its series of demands for "all documents and communications" in regard to several key areas and set a date of March 8 for the relevant agencies to respond.

That would include "strategies for end-use monitoring of weapons, equipment, direct budgeting assistance, and any other form of economic or security assistance," the ongoing anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine and if any assistance is conditional on those efforts, how much has already been spent and how much remains to be spent, and any other "economic assistance programs" for the Ukrainian government.

They also sought pertinent information on any "funds given to multilateral organizations" for Ukrainian assistance and if those organizations had any "oversight mechanisms," any "benchmarks for success" linked to the U.S. assistance to Ukraine, and if there were "any conditions imposed on funds provided" to Ukraine.

Biden ready to give another half billion to Ukraine

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported that as the House Oversight Committee Republicans began the process of scrutinizing the estimated $113 billion in taxpayer funds already given to Ukraine, President Biden announced an additional $500 million in aid during his surprise visit to Kyiv to personally meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

"Together, we’ve committed nearly 700 tanks and thousands of armored vehicles, 1,000 artillery systems, more than 2 million rounds of artillery ammunition, more than 50 advanced launch rocket systems, anti-ship and air defense systems, all defend U- -- to defend Ukraine," Biden said.

"And that doesn’t count the other half a billion dollars we’re going to be -- we’re announcing with you today and tomorrow that’s going to be coming your way. And that’s just the United States, in this piece," he added.

Whether this effort to audit the taxpayer-funded U.S. assistance to Ukraine will result in the exposure of any corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse and lead to a pullback of any of that assistance, or a halt on any future assistance, is something that will remain to be seen.