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U.S. Government Report Says U.S. Aid Effort In Afghanistan Is Poorly Coordinated

An audit (.pdf) of U.S. projects to rebuild Afghanistan “found a ‘confusing labyrinth’ of agencies and contractors in a poorly coordinated aid effort” that cannot easily demonstrate how money is being spent, a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said on Wednesday, Reuters reports (10/27).

“Nearly 7,000 contractors received almost $18 billion between 2007 and 2009 from the Defense Department, State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development,” according to the report, the Associated Press notes (Blackledge, 10/27). In a statement released with the audit, SIGAR said, “The audit shows that navigating the confusing labyrinth of government contracting is difficult, at best,” Reuters writes, noting that the report is “the first full survey of the aid contractor situation in the nine-year Afghan war.” SIGAR also said the Pentagon, State Department and USAID “are unable to readily report on how much money they spend on contracting for reconstruction activities in Afghanistan” (10/27).

To get a better perspective on aid flows, SIGAR recommended the Pentagon, State Department and USAID “create one database to track wartime contracts,” McClatchy/Miami Herald reports. “As it stands, the Pentagon has four contracting agencies that oversee contracts, but none of them [is] sharing information,” the news service writes, underscoring the audit’s finding that all U.S. agencies contracting in Afghanistan were cited for poor coordination. SIGAR also found that just a small group of companies were awarded a majority of the contracts. “USAID, for example, awarded almost half of the $2 billion it set aside for Afghanistan projects to two companies, Louis Berger and Development Alternatives Inc. Overall, the agency doled out contracts to 214 companies,” McClatchy/Miami Herald writes (Taylor, 10/27).

According to Reuters, “SIGAR had tried to analyze contracting for the years 2002-7, but found much of the data the government agencies had compiled prior to 2007 was ‘too poor to be analyzed,’ it said (10/27).

“This audit is crucial because if we don’t even know who we’re giving money to, it is nearly impossible to conduct system wide oversight,” Arnold Fields, the special inspector, said in the press release. Fields added that the audit could help to “more effectively prioritize future contract audits and more quickly identify contracts at risk of fraud, waste and abuse” (10/27).