Millions of Tax Dollars Wasted on Afghan Health Plan
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The Fiscal Times
September 5, 2013

The United States spends millions of dollars each year on a program intended to provide public health care to Afghans despite having little control over how the money is spent.

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction(the watchdog agency otherwise known as SIGAR) released a report Thursday morning warning that the U.S. is still allocating $236 million a year to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health for a program that was flagged for “significant financial management deficiencies.”

SIGAR said USAID, the agency administering the funds, has not taken any action to ensure proper distribution of the money despite a glaring audit last year. That audit warned that the Partnership Contracts for Health (PCH) program “had little oversight, weak internal controls and no real auditing system, which put millions of tax dollars at risk.”

USAID officials, for their part, said they plan to address publicly the details of the report during a briefing in Kabul later today.

RELATED: WHY WE’RE STILL WASTING BILLIONS IN AFGHANISTAN

The 2012 audit found that program directors were paid in cash, with no documented policies or procedural manuals in place. It also found that no one was performing external audits and that the “internal audit team didn’t have relevant professional qualifications.” There was also – shockingly – no budget committee to decide how to disperse the funds.

Yet USAID continues to fund the program. By mid-June of this year it had promised about $190 million to Partnership Contracts for Health. SIGAR found that about $127 million had been spent – so there’s $63 million left to be disbursed this year.

In its report, SIGAR recommends that the USAID mission director stop further funding of the program until all cost estimates are validated and a plan is developed to address the deficiencies. The auditor suggested “returning the excess obligations to the U.S. Treasury for better use.”

But USAID didn’t concur with SIGAR’s recommendation and said they had “no obligation to address the deficiencies identified or to verify any corrective actions” that were implemented for the program.

“USAID’s decision to continue disbursing funds … with little to no assurance that these funds are safeguarded from waste, fraud and abuse raises serious concerns about the integrity of the [Afghan Ministry of Public Health] program,” the report said.

Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.