US ‘lost’ millions on Afghan projects

US ‘lost’ millions on Afghan projects

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
US ‘lost’ millions on Afghan projects

Some 130,000 NATO troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and there are fears that their exit will lead to a reduction in rights and freedoms in country. AFP photo

Millions of dollars in U.S. funds have been lost due to poor planning and workmanship on projects to help rebuild Afghanistan, and billions more could be at risk, a U.S. watchdog said July 30. The report by the special inspector general for Afghanistan, John Sopko, warned that handing over security to Afghan forces as the U.S. withdraws its troops would also likely balloon the costs of U.S.-funded aid schemes.

Serious problems

“The U.S. risks wasting billions of dollars if U.S.-funded development programs cannot be sustained, either by the Afghan government or by continued donor support,” said the report to Congress released on July 30. “As this report to Congress illustrates, a decade of struggle and bloodshed -and more than $89 billion of US appropriations for Afghan reconstruction - has not cleared the landscape of serious problems,” Sopko said.

He added that a “significant portion of the U.S. government’s $400 million investment in large-scale infrastructure projects in fiscal year 2011 may be wasted, due to weaknesses in planning, coordination and execution.” Three police border posts in eastern Nangarhar province were found to have major construction faults, including poorly-built guard towers, unconnected drains and badly-installed heating and ventilation systems.

Following complaints about shoddy workmanship, there had been arrests and charges brought in both the U.S. and Afghanistan and more than $900,000 had been recovered. Several contracts were also withdrawn when poor contractors were uncovered, leading to the protection of some $50 million in contract funds. Two people had been convicted, one of theft and conspiracy.

The analysis examined the Afghan Infrastructure Fund. Over the past two years, Congress has invested $800 million into the fund, and the State Department has committed about $1 billion of its funds to related infrastructure programs.