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SIGAR Skeptical Massive USAID Program Will Really Help Afghan Women

The government watchdog for Afghanistan reconstruction expressed concern Thursday the U.S. is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a women’s empowerment program that will not actually benefit women.

“I am concerned that some very basic programmatic issues remain unresolved and that the Afghan women engaged in the program may be left without any tangible benefit upon completion,” Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko, wrote in a letter of inquiry to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s acting administrator.

USAID is funding about half of the $416 million program — Promoting Gender Equity in National Priority Programs (Promote) — which is the largest women’s empowerment program in the world. Another $200 million is expected from unidentified international donors.

“Many of my concerns echo those of Afghanistan’s first lady,” Sopko continued. “To quote Mrs. Ghani, ‘I do hope that we are not going to fall again into the game of contracting and sub-contracting and the routine of workshops and training sessions generating a lot of certificates on paper and little else.'”

The letter notes concern about the substance of the program, USAID’s ability to implement, monitor and asses the impact of program on the women, and lack of communication between the program’s contractors and the Afghan government.

“Presentations on Promote have left SIGAR with a number of troubling concerns and questions,” Sopko notes.

The letter also reminds USAID of its failure to demonstrate any correlation between the agency’s past efforts to support Afghan women and improvements in their lives. SIGAR reported in 2014 that USAID could not provide a list of the projects, programs and initiatives the agency implemented between 2011 and 2013 to help Afghan women, or how much the efforts cost.

SIGAR demands answers to a list of pointed questions, such as: How did USAID determine the total amount of funding required for Promote? And, of this $416 million, how much will be spent in Afghanistan on Afghan women, and how much will be spent on security and overhead costs for the three contractors and program implementers?

The watchdog has consistently reported wasteful spending on shoddy projects in Afghanistan. (RELATED: Pentagon Wasted Tons Of Money Sending Afghan Jewelers To Shows In Paris)

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