The federal government has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into countless programs intended to support, train and educate Afghan women as part of its broader Afghanistan reconstruction efforts. While the initiatives sound promising, at least in principle, the way they’re being managed (or mismanaged) has auditors concerned about their cost and overall effectiveness.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released a report today revealing that none of the three major agencies running the programs—the Defense Department, State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development—could readily identify all their various projects, programs and initiatives to support Afghan women or the amount of funding spent on those efforts.
SIGAR said that the three departments reported spending “at least” $64.8 million on 652 projects to support women between 2011 and 2013, though that includes only standalone projects that exclusively benefit women.
State and USAID also reported spending an extra $850.5 million on 17 other projects that weren’t specifically for Afghan women, but still are meant to help women directly. However, the auditors said that the agencies couldn’t identify how much of those funds went to supporting women.
SIGAR slammed the agencies for failing to keep track of where that money is going. “This lack of accountability is primarily due to the fact that none of the three agencies has effective mechanisms for tracking the funding associated with these projects,” SIGAR said.
The auditors also faulted the agencies for not having a way to assess each of the programs’ effectiveness in order to determine if they are worth the cost: “State and USAID did not present evidence showing a causal relationship between the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on programs intended to support Afghan women and statistics suggesting improvements in the lives of Afghan women.”
For their part, the departments disputed claims that they can’t prove the effectiveness of their programs.
“Over the last thirteen years, Afghan women and girls have achieved significant progress and it is important to accurately convey this to the American people,” USAID program coordinator Charles Randolph wrote in a response to the inspector general. “The progress is not accidental. Support to Afghan women and girls has been one of the key goals of the development community and our Afghan partners.”
The auditors, in response, said they would like to see data backing up those claims.
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