Friday 28 January 2011

SIGAR boss goes out with a bang

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), General Arnold Fields, appears to be going into overdrive in his last few weeks in the job. After being criticised for little activity, he has published his second report in a week.
Like the previous report (see below) the most recent offering concerns reconstruction funds that may be at risk due to lack of planning.
This audit of the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) in Laghman found that 27 of the 69 CERP projects in the province, worth $49.2 million out of a total budget of $53 million, were at risk or have questionable outcomes.
The CERP program is basically a large pot of cash that military officers can dole out locally for humanitarian and reconstruction projects without having to go through the tiresome business of tenders and all that. Since 2004 Congress has appropriated nearly $2.64 billion for CERP projects in Afghanistan.
What the SIGAR report has found out is that most of the money spent so far has gone on road contracts, but there appears to be no money in the pot to pay for maintenance, meaning the roadways may simply revert to tracks in a few years. "“Our audit found that these projects and groups of related infrastructure initiatives were approved without adequate assurance that the Government of Afghanistan had the resources to operate and maintain them. This suggests that the Afghans have not been sufficiently involved, despite a U.S. strategy emphasizing Afghan First,” said General Fields, who visited Laghman in September last year. "Building multimillion dollar projects, and then trying to figure out a sustainability plan, is a nonsensical way of planning," he added.
Is it possible that General Fields is trying to prove a point, now he has been sacked from his job?
In his final report to Congress, issued today, Fields notes that there are 16 ongoing audits in his office. The Investigative Directorate opened 35 new cases and closed seven bringing the total number of ongoing cases to 105. At present 86 per cent of current investigations are focussed on contract or procurement fraud. Presumably this includes the case of the lying, cheating Sarah Lee Mitcham of Bennett-Fouch and K5 Global, who I have written about before and who left Afghanistan last year without paying her local contractors.

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