Afghan government can’t account for billions of dollars in Pentagon aid

James Arkin
September 3, 2014

Billions of dollars in direct U.S. aid to the Afghan army and police have been poorly tracked, leaving no way to verify if the money was spent as intended, according to a new report from the Pentagon’s internal watchdog.

The Department of Defense provided $3.3 billion in such aid between October 2010 and October 2013, yet Afghanistan’s government “lacked basic controls to provide reasonable assurance that it appropriately spent” the money, according to a report released last week by the Pentaton’s assistant inspector general for financial management and reporting, Lorin T. Venable. 

Not only that, but the U.S. agency responsible for supporting Afghan’s security forces, known as the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, hasn’t penalized the local government for poor oversight or improper handling of the funds, the report complained.

Because of the continuing lack of accountability, $13 billion that the Defense Department plans to provide Afghan security forces between fiscal years 2015 and 2019 “may be subject to wasteful spending and abuse,” it warned.

Already, as much as $1.5 billion in U.S. aid, sent between December 2012 and December 2013, cannot be accounted for because it was commingled with other revenues in government bank accounts, the report said. The Afghan government also spent more than $82 million in Pentagon funds on unapproved items, including Afghan armed forces salaries, overtime, and travel, without any penalty, the report added.

The report also raised new concerns about an old problem in the Pentagon’s Afghan aid program, namely the disbursement of foreign aid funds to apparent “ghost workers.”

Three years ago, the acting Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction first complained that the Afghan Ministry of Interior couldn’t accurately say how many people worked for the national police, and that as a result, there was “limited assurance” that only those on the job were receiving paychecks underwritten by foreign aid.

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Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity. This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.