News / Asia

US Watchdog Slams Afghanistan Aid Waste

FILE - Inspector General John Sopko.
FILE - Inspector General John Sopko.
Sharon Behn
— A U.S. audit of billions of dollars it provided to rebuild war-ravaged Afghanistan shows many projects are plagued by poor planning, inadequate inspections, and a lack of accountability.

Since 2009, the U.S. government put $32 million into a project to prevent insurgents from placing explosives under roads.  But according to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, no-one knows how much work was done.

In his July report to Congress, Inspector General John Sopko said it has been impossible to confirm the number of contracts issued for the project or whether required devices were installed in some 2,500 locations.

It is one of many incidents of a lack of oversight, the report said.

In one case, the inspector general found a $34 million military building in Helmand province was never needed, may never be occupied, and could be demolished.

In another, the U.S. Defense Department is  moving forward on spending nearly $772 million for aircraft the Afghan National Army currently cannot operate or maintain.
Sopko also told Congress that USAID’s $47 million Afghan stabilization program is suffering from repeated delays and is failing to meet contract objectives.

The director of the USAID program in Kabul, Mike McCord, told VOA that the agency has responded to the audit concerns but he did “not feel comfortable” specifying what has been done. He defended the program.

"Well we are proud of it and we think it is doing a great job and is making a difference in the lives of local communities and it is really helping in think in terms of dealing with one of the major issues around stability which is the ability of local governments to respond to the needs of their communities," said McCord.

According to USAID, the program has “engaged” about 2,000 Afghan government officials and community leaders. But the audit found none of the money has gone to grants funding community projects, as called for in the contracts.

Participants in one of the regional programs said they found the planning workshops tedious.

Consequently, the inspector general's report said, “the program is at risk of undercutting its stated objectives to promote stability and improve Afghan perceptions of their government.”

In an April report, an audit of health services found two new USAID-funded hospitals, costing $18.5 million, may not be sustainable.  Afghan officials have said they will not be able to fund the operation or maintain the hospitals.

Former ambassador and analyst Omar Samad at the New America Foundation, warns of the dangers of such miscalculations.

"Waste, mismanagement, fraud and corruption, undermine and damage not only relations between nations but also can undermine the mission overall.  The American people have been very generous over the last 12 years. It is taxpayers' money and there has to be accountability for it," said Samad.

Samad said oversight of U.S. aid to Afghanistan is crucial.

"Part of the accountability comes for the donor, and part of it from the recipient.  What we have seen in Afghanistan is that a lot of money has been spent, a lot of work has been accomplished, some very good, some not so good, and to have an entity like SIGAR as a watchdog look into the process and identify the area problems is important as long as action is taken to correct it," he said.

Congress has provided nearly $93 billion to build Afghan security forces, improve governance and foster economic development.  USAID has invested about $17 billion of that money in Afghanistan since 2002.

Inspector General Sopko says it is the most costly rebuilding of a single country in U.S. history. But he warns there appears to be a growing gap between Washington’s policy objectives and the reality of achieving them in Afghanistan.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid