For years, the federal watchdog tasked with overseeing the massive multi-billion reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan has flagged fraud, abuse and waste. Despite the warnings, the U.S. continues placing millions of dollars in the hands of questionable contractors.
In just the latest of countless troubling findings by the Special Inspector for General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the auditors revealed that the State Department is paying a contractor $3.6 million for three mobile television trucks that cost way more than expected and came two years late.
The trucks were intended for local Afghan television networks for live sporting event coverage at soccer and cricket games, but now they are sitting unused under a tarp in Kabul.
According to the auditors, the trucks were priced at $157,300 each—but their price tags ultimately ballooned to $568,062 per truck.
“Something is seriously wrong with the way this contract was managed, IG John Sopko said in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. He added that the State Department should explore whether it is possible to cancel the contract immediately.
Though $3.6 million is quite a small amount when considering the United States has already poured more than $104 billion into rebuilding the war-torn country of Afghanistan, SIGAR’s latest finding helps paint a picture of how most of that money has been handled. The auditors have frequently warned of the wide spread abuse and corruption in Afghanistan –which has resulted in the loss of billions of tax dollars.
For example, in 2010, SIGAR accountants told The Fiscal Times they could account for less than 10 percent of all the money that had been spent on reconstruction efforts.
And despite spending an “unprecedented” amount of money rebuilding Afghanistan, Sopko says the country doesn’t have any kind of strategy to curb the corruption.
"This is astonishing, given that Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and a country that the United States is spending billions of dollars in," the auditor said to an audience at Georgetown University last month. He added that “things could get worse with the drawdown” that is scheduled for the end of 2015.
Still, Congress has already authorized another $16 billion to spend in Afghanistan in the next few years.
Meanwhile, corruption isn’t the only major threat to the billions of tax dollars being poured into the country. Earlier this week, SIGAR reported that the U.S.’s $7.6 billion efforts to stop heroin production in Afghanistan had been completely ineffective.
“The U.S. has already spent nearly $7.6 billion to combat the opium industry. Yet, by every conceivable metric, we’ve failed,” Sopko said
SIGAR is known for being relentlessly critical of the agencies it audits. That reputation has unsurprisingly created some tension among those agencies who say the IG’s work “ultimately undermines the effort to build stronger civilian institutions here by creating the impression that the United States is simply pouring money down the well,” a U.S. official told The New York Times.
SIGAR, for its part, maintains a respected reputation among the Inspector General community. Earlier this week, the agency received five awards from the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) for its work.
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