SIGAR: ‘Serious problems’ with US-funded projects in Afghanistan

Afghan men working on a primary school. Photo by U.S. Air Force TSgt Laura K. Smith / ISAF

There is a need for more effective oversight on infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, where five projects under the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund are running far behind schedule.

This is the conclusion of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction’s quarterly report to the U.S. Congress on the status of construction projects in the war-torn country. After allocating almost $90 billion in funds, “serious problems” remain on U.S.-funded construction projects in the country, according to the report.

Five projects — four on power lines and one on building justice centers — are expected to be finished mid-2013, just a few months before the eventual exit of NATO troops from the country. But the report found the projects are “half-year to a year and a quarter behind schedule.”

Some construction projects are also poorly built, with some lacking viable water supply and having leaking fuel lines, unconnected drain pipes and improperly installed heating and ventilation systems.

There is also the big problem of sustainability. When NATO troops leave, Afghans will be faced with the challenge of overseeing the projects’ construction and maintenance.

These problems have led SIGAR to conclude that part of the $400 million U.S. investment in infrastructure projects in 2011 “may be wasted” due to weaknesses in planning, coordination and execution — challenges that also impede aid efforts in Afghanistan.

There is also concern that these problems could undermine efforts by the U.S. government to weaken the Taliban in the country, which remain a threat.

“If goals are set and not achieved, both the U.S. and the Afghan governments can lose the populace’s support,” according to the report, quoted by The New York Times.

SIGAR will be launching several initiatives to improve oversight, including a new Joint Strategic Oversight Plan for 2013 with the Departments of State and Defense, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, a “capstone report” initiative that for this year will focus on the issue of sustainability, and a new financial audit program.

These, according to SIGAR, will be crucial to achieving U.S. construction goals with the transition period just two years away.

A U.S. official in Kabul, meanwhile, told The New York Times that “given the nature of what we’re trying to do here, we don’t expect to be going in one single, linear positive direction.”

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.