A new report from a government watchdog shows that police chiefs in Afghanistan are likely abusing millions of U.S. aid by diverting funds intended for police officer salaries and enriching themselves instead.
The Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) is famous for turning up some of the most outlandish misuses of U.S. government spending, and this time is little different. Ever since 2001, the U.S. has been actively involved in creating the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP), spending approximately $3.6 billion dollars over the course of 13 years. In total, the U.S. has poured $100 billion dollars into Afghanistan’s reconstruction, but despite incredible financial support, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani asked the U.S. to reconsider pulling out its forces at the end of 2016.
“If both parties, or, in this case, multiple partners, have done their best to achieve the objectives and progress is very real, then there should be willingness to re-examine a deadline,” Ghani told CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Fox News reports.
U.S. taxpayers have contributed $1.3 billion to police salaries and other ANP personnel costs, and the total annual bill amounts to $300 million dollars annually. But is the money arriving at the right place? This is a question SIGAR has asked for dozens of programs in Afghanistan. In 2011, SIGAR highlighted deficiencies in ANP payroll processes, including unverified and contradictory data.
Nothing has changed. Despite constant help from numerous U.S. government agencies in developing effective and transparent payroll processes, the ANP has all but abandoned a best-practices approach. Currently, the ANP’s electronic systems used for paying salaries are only partly functional, leading to concerns that 20 percent of ANP personnel do not receive a full salary, as they receive their salaries in cash— without documentation, and without accountability.
For nine years, the U.S. government has unsuccessfully tried to implement electronic systems to cut down on fraud and abuse. Traditional methods of identification cards to curb abuse have been abandoned, meaning that up to 50 percent of police salary payments might be going elsewhere.
“The verifications that these organizations performed were ad hoc and uncoordinated, and no one has conducted a comprehensive verification to cover all ANP personnel and payroll processes,” SIGAR noted in the report.
U.S. forces wrapping up operations are gradually delegating all responsibilities to the Afghan government, resulting in less oversight over the ANP. The problems highlighted by SIGAR show every indication of worsening.
“Unless the MOI [Afghan Ministries of Interior] develops the capability to ensure and verify the accuracy of ANP personnel and payroll data, there is a significant risk that a large portion of the more than $300 million in annual U.S. government funding for ANP salaries will be wasted or abused,” the report warned.
Payroll systems can’t determine the rank of new recruits, which often results in payments higher than appropriate. No oversight exists for ensuring attendance. Sign-in sheets are all but ignored. This, again, makes it easy for officers to receive payment for days not worked, and the system cannot distinguish between active or inactive personnel. Identification cards, which are used to obtain payment from the system, outnumber active ANP personnel 2-to-1.
Still, the U.S. shows no sign of slowing down its continued funding of the ANP to the tune of $300 million dollars a year.
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