KABUL, July 29 – A watchdog body criticised the US Agency for International Development Monday for spending nearly $50 million on programmes in Afghanistan which had so far failed to strengthen local government or improve stability.
An audit from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) highlighted concerns with USAID’s “Stability in Key Areas Programme” which runs across the war torn country.
The report from the official US watchdog will raise further worries about wastage of some of the billions of dollars of international aid spent in a country battling a 12 year Taliban insurgency.
“It’s troubling that after 16 months, this program has not issued its first community grant,” SIGAR’s special inspector general John Sopko said in a statement.
“Rather, it has spent nearly $50 million roughly a quarter of the total program budget on conferences, overhead and workshops. This looks like bad value for US taxpayers and the Afghan people.”
The projects were intended to expand the authority and legitimacy of Afghan provincial governments by helping them implement development and governance initiatives in local communities.
As US led NATO combat troops prepare to depart next year, leaving behind a strong Afghan government is considered crucial to avoid a feared return to civil war.
But 16 months into the four USAID programmes, which have an overall budget of more than $203 million, SIGAR said none of them had awarded grants to communities to address sources of instability.
USAID blamed the lack of progress on a delay in finalising with key Afghan government partners how the project would be carried out.
SIGAR said it was “disconcerting that USAID did not secure the agreement of key government partners prior to issuing the requests for proposal or, at the very least, before awarding contracts”.