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Shades of Iraq, millions spent in Afghanistan lack adequate oversight

The inspector general finds too few watchdogs keeping an eye on how US reconstruction funds are spent.

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US C-17 military plane prepares to fly to Afghanistan from an air base in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Friday, May 8, 2009.

Azamat Imanaliev/AP

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The person responsible for a $404 million reconstruction contract in Afghanistan sits nine time zones away in suburban Maryland and is unable to provide adequate oversight as to where all the money is going, according to a new government report.

The audit suggests that the US is confronting the same kinds of problems in Afghanistan as it did in Iraq, where billions of dollars were unaccounted for during six years of reconstruction there, and has little plan yet to address the problems.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released its first audit of reconstruction work in Afghanistan, focusing on a single, $404 million contract let by the American command responsible for training Afghan security forces.

The auditors discovered the sole person overseeing the massive contract – just one of an untold number of contracts let under the training command – cannot provide the proper oversight because the individual is not in Afghanistan but instead works an Army contracting center in Maryland.

Recognizing the problems inherent in overseeing such a massive contract far away from where the work was actually being done, the contracting officer hired a subordinate to work in-country. But that person has limited contracting experience and is not able to visit many of the actual work sites where the work is performed under the contract.

"Because of other duties, this official does not have time to make field visits," according to the five-page report.

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