Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and his predecessor have spent more than $40 million on the investigation of President Clinton's Arkansas land deals that was expanded earlier this year to include a devastating probe of the Monica Lewinsky affair.

In a semiannual audit of independent counsel costs, the General Accounting Office said Wednesday that Starr spent $3.9 million during the six months ended March 31, the latest figures available.That brings Starr's expenses to nearly $33.5 million since he took over the Whitewater investigation in 1994. Add to that $6 million spent by Robert Fiske, Starr's predecessor on Whitewater, and the cost of investigating Clinton climbs to almost $40 million - a number that will increase significantly when updated with the past six months' activity.

Starr has estimated that he spent at least $4.4 million on the Lewinsky investigation alone over the past eight months. An exact figure won't be available until next spring.

The most expensive independent counsel probe to date was Lawrence Walsh's $48.5 million, six-year investigation of the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra dealings.

Starr was originally hired to investigate Clinton's Arkansas land dealings while he was governor of the state. In 1996 Starr's inquiry was expanded to include the White House travel office firings and the controversy over the White House's gathering of some Republicans' FBI files.

In January the investigation was expanded again to include the president's affair with Lewinsky and an alleged cover-up. Starr turned over a report to Congress on that aspect of his investigation, alleging perjury and obstruction of justice, on Sept. 11.

Starr has said he is nearing completion of the Whitewater probe.

The biggest expense has been staff. In addition to 57 regular employees of the office of independent counsel, FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents are detailed to the investigation. The prosecutor also hires private investigators and other specialists to assist with the work.

During Starr's investigation, more than $24 million has been spent on people-related costs, including $9 million for salaries and benefits for employees of the independent counsel's office, $13 million for FBI, IRS and Justice Department employees detailed to Starr, and $2.4 million for hiring outside investigators and other specialists, according to GAO reports.

Travel expenses for Starr, his deputies and agents and witnesses totaled $4.7 million since 1994, audits showed.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Breakdown of top expenses

Salaries and benefits for Starr's employees: $9 million.

FBI and IRS agents and Justice Department employees: $13 million.

Travel for staff, agents and witnesses: $4.7 million.

Outside investigators: $2.4 million.

Rent, telephone and utilities: $2.3 million.