Government watchdog finds many examples of failed construction projects
In the Nangarhar province near Afghanistan’s eastern border sits an abandoned police base, built with $4.5 million of U.S. taxpayer dollars and completed just 13 months ago. The base, known as Lal Por 2, is badly needed but remains empty because it lacks any viable water supply. No efforts are underway to add one.
A neighboring base on the border, also built with U.S. funds, has some Afghan police, but lacks a fully-functioning septic system or air conditioning. Those shortcomings, along with drainage problems in the main buildings, put the base at risk for abandonment as well, according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
John Sopko, a former deputy director at Homeland Security and prosecutor who just filled the inspector general role July 2, says in his quarterly report published Monday that these two bases are prime examples of rampant waste throughout the Afghan reconstruction effort. Costing a total of $19 million, the bases, along with two others in the Nangahar province facing their own problems, are meant to give Afghan police a watchful eye along the nation’s militarily-significant border with Pakistan.
Instead, they serve as a reminder that some of the $400 million the U.S. has sunk into “large-scale” construction projects in Afghanistan has gone to waste, according to the inspector general. The report also uncovered $12 million of grants for construction that was disbursed by the Department of State without adequate follow-up to ensure the money was being put to good use. Looking at one of those grants, the inspector general found that $253,432 had been wasted after a project was scrapped and no money was returned to State.
Sopko’s quarterly report includes multiple examples of U.S.-funded roads, buildings and facilities going to waste, including the police bases in the Nangarhar province. Neither the contractor who built the facilities — Afghanistan’s Road & Roof Construction Co. — nor the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers effectively checked the quality of the project upon its completion, according to the inspector general’s report.
A separate inspector general report published Monday provides extra detail on the Lal Por bases. In a letter to the inspector general that appears in that Lal Por report, the Army Corps of Engineers claims that some shortcomings at the bases can be attributed to poor security in the region.
“This is especially the case with projects covered in this report which are located in extremely remote and predominantly inaccessible sites,” the Corps of Engineers’ Col. John Hurley wrote in a letter included in the report Monday. “The SIGAR report does not mention the critical security and access issues which are the root cause for the specific quality management discrepancies.”
Indeed, the Nangarhar province’s main road, the Jalalabad-Kabul highway, has been labeled one of the most dangerous roads in the world — though that’s due to vehicle accidents, not insurgent attacks. In 2010, The New York Times said the mountainous 40-mile stretch between Jalalabad and Afghanistan’s capital “claims so many lives so regularly that most people stopped counting long ago.”
The inspector general also says his office uncovered cases of fraud and bribery, which resulted in two convictions, five arrests, and $900,000 in recovered funds.
Sopko wrote in the quarterly report that his office’s next review of Afghanistan reconstruction this fall will focus on the sustainability of facilities the U.S. will leave for Afghanis when the last combat troops leave in 2014.
“Without effective security — the object of more than $50 billion in U.S. appropriations since 2002 — governance and socioeconomic development cannot succeed,” Sopko wrote. “But without sustainability, no amount of success in security can long endure.”
Reprinted by permission from iWatch News