Government watchdogs have consistently and urgently warned that corruption in Afghanistan could completely undermine the U.S.’s $104 billion reconstruction effort in that war-ridden country.
While the federal government is fully aware of the problem, it has largely failed to beef up its oversight of the billions of dollars that are being pumped into the country each year.
In the latest example of lax oversight, a blistering new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reveals the Pentagon isn’t keeping sufficient tabs on the $300 million in tax dollars each year that are supposed to help fund the payroll of the Afghan National Police (ANP).
The U.S. has so far doled out about $15 billion to the ANP. Yet auditors question whether much of that money is getting into the right hands. After a review of the police force payroll, SIGAR found that personnel numbers had been inflated – as had salaries for certain officers.
The auditors faulted the Department of Defense for not having an effective way to track where the money is going.
“Despite 13 years and several billions of dollars in salary assistance to the Afghan government for the ANP, there is still no assurance that personnel and payroll data are accurate,” the IG report said.
The report also found that very loose oversight of problems with the electronic accounting systems as well as “little or no physical verification” of who’s actually receiving money from the U.S. have led to the waste of millions of dollars.
SIGAR confirmed that in some cases, officers routinely forged daily attendance records for police in order to inflate their personnel numbers so they would receive more funding – and that DOD had no way of knowing which names were forged.
This has been a problem for years. Earlier on, federal watchdogs revealed similar findings.
In 2009 the Government Accountability Office released a report that found one third of the Afghan National Police listed on the payroll could not be accounted for.
Auditors warn that lax oversight over the ANP payroll is not only wasteful to taxpayers – it could mean that many Afghan police officers are getting shorted since others are inflating their own salaries. SIGAR said that roughly one fifth of all ANP staff could potentially have their salaries cut in half because their officers don’t have to document their payments and the DOD can’t verify them.
Corruption has largely plagued the whole reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. Special Inspector General John Sopko has routinely warned that if the U.S.’s anti-corruption strategy fails, it could undermine the entire decade-long operation in Afghanistan. So far, the auditor has warned that it is indeed failing.
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