Report: U.S. spent $6.8 million on nonexistent equipment
The U.S. has provided some 30,000 vehicles to the Afghan National Police (ANP). Since the ANP cannot afford maintenance costs, and likely will not be able to do so for several years, the U.S. has been picking up the tab. But we may not be getting what we think we’re paying for.
According to a new audit by the U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the U.S. spent $6.8 million on maintenance for vehicles that had not been seen in over a year, had never been seen, or had been destroyed.
The problem, the report concludes, was that the U.S. command that awarded the contract did not adjust the terms to reflect the number of police vehicles requiring maintenance.
$6.8 million is small fraction of the billions the U.S. has spent in Afghanistan. Since 2002, Congress has allocated over $50 billion to train and equip the Afghan security forces.
Still, $6.8 million is not an insignificant amount, especially when the U.S. is looking for ways to cut back on unnecessary spending. Across the country budget cuts are hitting local police forces hard. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to spend billions on Afghanistan aid projects — $28 million per day, according to the Inspector General.
Some policymakers are starting to call for more transparency and oversight in Afghanistan aid. And we are making some progress. For example, the U.S. agency that oversaw this particular boondoggle has already made changes, updating its tracking system and removing over 7,000 vehicles that should not have been on the maintenance list. The Inspector General estimates that this improvement will save U.S. taxpayers $5.5 million per year.
It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. Eliminating a few unnecessary and unsustainable programs will yield some savings, but the problems will continue until the U.S. develops a new strategy for Afghanistan that links long-term strategic goals with smart budget choices.