US watchdog asks NGOs for tips to improve Afghan aid

    John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Sopko sent a letter to 90 aid groups requesting assistance to send information and data to draw out lessons on Afghanistan reconstruction and development initiatives. Photo by: Special IG for Afghanistan Reconstruction / CC BY

    The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction has been harshly critical of the U.S.-led effort to rebuild post-war Afghanistan, frequently calling out individual development organizations in audit reports and on social media.

    Now, in its effort to find evidence of U.S. aid mismanagement in the reconstruction effort, the government watchdog is enlisting new allies: the same contractors SIGAR has criticized in the past.

    On Thursday, SIGAR Inspector General John Sopko sent a letter to 90 nongovernmental organizations requesting “assistance in obtaining information that could help SIGAR extract useful lessons on reconstruction and development initiatives.”

    In the letter, Sopko — who has been alternately criticized by aid agencies and implementers and lauded by some members of Congress for his outspoken remarks and widely broadcast allegations — urges NGOs to share both successes and failures at a “particularly important” moment in the reconstruction effort.

    The drawdown of U.S. forces, he writes, “may substantially increase the difficulties you encounter in carrying out your mission.”

    Motive unclear

    SIGAR is seeking to learn from these aid groups about “greater” and “lesser successes,” “in-country challenges,” “government-induced impediments,” and “suggested improvements.”

    Sopko’s letter assures NGOs that his office will “take pains to ensure that any public references we make to NGO projects and concerns will be aggregated and generalized with others, and will not portray your organization as our information source.”

    The outreach could be seen as an effort to quell tensions between the watchdog and the companies whose programs it has inspected — or considered an effort to solicit even more specific examples of aid waste to lob at U.S. government agencies.

    According to SIGAR, as of September 30, 2013, the United States had appropriated approximately $96.6 billion for relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan since fiscal year 2002.

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    About the author

    • Michael Igoe

      Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.

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