The independent federal watchdog in charge of rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse of U.S. taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan today issued a scathing new report detailing widespread waste in the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund-a fund long targeted by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, who has moved to strip funding for large-scale infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, and instead plug that money into road and bridge projects here at home. Today's report, detailing potential billions in waste of taxpayer dollars, is the first issued by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko, whose appointment McCaskill supported after helping to remove his poorly performing predecessor from the post.
"Folks in Missouri know how badly we need to be fixing our roads and bridges here at home-which is why it's so frustrating that we're spending billions of American dollars for Afghan roads and bridges and energy projects that the Afghans can't sustain, and may, in fact, be hurting our military mission," said McCaskill, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight. "It's time we bring this money back to America, and plug it directly into road and bridge projects where we won't have to worry about them getting blown up and where it'll create some jobs. This report underscores the importance of having an aggressive Inspector General in place to confront waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars head-on."
Today's report details the ways in which the AIF funds infrastructure projects in Afghanistan that are totally or partly unsustainable by the Afghan government. The report concludes that those projects may not be aiding the military's counterinsurgency efforts. In the report-available online HERE-the Special Inspector General also found that:
"[T]he U.S. government's efforts to execute large-scale energy sector projects in Afghanistan have frequently resulted in cost and schedule over-runs, contractor default, questionable or undefined sustainment methods, and wasted U.S. dollars."
"[T]he Deputy Minister of Public Works [in Afghanistan] recommended that the U.S. government stop building roads because the Afghan government is unable to maintain the current road network"
"[I]n its report to Congress on implementation of AIP for fiscal year 2011, DOD, in coordination with State, only reported on projects funded through AIF, thereby limiting congressional oversight of key infrastructure projects in Afghanistan."
Late last year, McCaskill introduced legislation to strip funds for large-scale construction projects in Afghanistan and redirect those resources-at least $800 million-for use in the construction of roads and bridges in America. In March, McCaskill told military commanders at a Senate hearing that she believes in the ability of the U.S. military to build infrastructure in Afghanistan-but that the Afghan government cannot sustain those projects.
Today's report is the first issued by new Special Inspector General John Sopko. In 2010, McCaskill successfully called on the President to remove then Special Inspector General Arnold Fields amid concerns of incompetence and mismanagement. Following Fields' dismissal, McCaskill repeatedly pushed the President to appoint a new permanent watchdog, saying in a Senate hearing: "We do not have [Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction], we do not have DOD, we do not have State, we do not have AID, in terms of an appointed and confirmed Inspector General... I find it appalling that these people have not been appointed. And there is a long list of qualified people to hold these jobs... And I do not understand why this is taking so long. If you look at the world of Inspectors General, and the money that's being spent-how these positions can go vacant for this period of time is beyond me. And I'm hoping that the White House gets busy."