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Congress brings down top auditor of Afghan corruption. Wrong target?

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* Shoddy and unsustainable projects. In a forthcoming audit, SIGAR found that half of the military reconstruction projects surveyed already show maintenance problems after handover. A Monitor investigation found similar problems with other US projects, mostly as a result of poor or incomplete construction, as well as unsubstantiated expectations that Aghans could continue supporting a project.

* Cost overruns due to contracting problems. Last year, SIGAR reported that a $125 million contract to build a power plant in Kabul ballooned to $300 million and was a year late. This month, the US government awarded the same firm, Black & Veatch, a $266 million no-bid contract for another Afghan power project.

Criticism of SIGAR from the US Congress

But a bipartisan group of senators on the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight criticized SIGAR for nearly two years, first for sluggishness in hiring auditors, then for a lack of aggressiveness in the field.

Complaints intensified following peer reviews of SIGAR completed in August that presented a mixed picture of the fledgling agency. The reviews found SIGAR’s strategic plan had no performance targets and that the agency did not conduct formal risk-based assessments to help prioritize which projects to investigate. The report also noted that “stakeholders” were unhappy they weren’t consulted in that prioritization process.

SIGAR began working on implementing the peer review suggestions. But Fields also hired an “independent monitor” to oversee SIGAR’s performance, choosing a former Defense Department Inspector General who resigned in 2005 under allegations of misconduct that included misleading Congress.

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