The World Bank has disputed U.S. government findings that billions of dollars of donor funds flowing into Afghanistan are at risk due to lack of oversight and transparency.
The project in question is called Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, or ARTF, and is being administered by the World Bank. It is one of the largest sources of funding to Afghan government operations outside the security sector.
The U.S. has paid about $3 billion of the total $10 billion in direct assistance to Kabul since 2002, making it the largest contributor.
On Wednesday, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, released its audit of the project, saying that once the U.S. or any donor provides its contributions to the fund, neither the World Bank nor USAID can account for where and how the funds are being spent.
SIGAR noted in its audit report that the World Bank is unable to accurately measure ARTF sector-level performance.
“Without an accurate, reliable evaluation, the World Bank will be unable to determine the impact the roughly $10 billion in donor funding has had in improving Afghan development,” said the U.S. government watchdog.
SIGAR is tasked with auditing U.S.-funded reconstruction programs and providing recommendations for preventing waste and corruption. In its quarterly reports submitted to the U.S. Congress, the agency has been critical of the mismanagement of reconstruction funds, and it disclosed massive corruption in certain areas, including Afghanistan’s security sector.
While the World Bank swiftly questioned the report, it welcomed the watchdog’s recommendations an opportunity to strengthen the focus on the fund’s results and accountability.
“Most of the findings, however, are somewhat anecdotal, and do not fully take into account measures taken to improve the reporting on how funds are used,” the Bank noted in a statement sent to the media on Wednesday.
The program focuses on improving and expanding access to health care and education, developing rural infrastructure, and improving farmers’ crops and incomes.
"We are proud of the tangible results Afghanistan has achieved with the support of ARTF for Afghans in the past 15 years and continues to deliver,” the World Bank asserted.
The United States has spent about $1 trillion overall to secure and stabilize Afghanistan. Most of the funds have been devoted to creating and training Afghan National Defense and Security Forces so they could tackle the Taliban-led insurgency.
Security has deteriorated in recent years, though, with the insurgents controlling or contesting more than 44 percent of the country.
SIGAR has routinely identified and blamed corrupt practices by Afghan security institutions and forces for battlefield setbacks.