USAID Thinks It Built a Hospital in the Mediterranean Sea

July 1, 2015 0

The aid agency can’t account for 510 buildings it helped construct in Afghanistan by MATTHEW GAULT Every day it seems we discover another way that...

The aid agency can’t account for 510 buildings it helped construct in Afghanistan

by MATTHEW GAULT

Every day it seems we discover another way that Washington has wasted some of the $110 billion American taxpayers have spent on reconstruction in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon has blown money building facilities it doesn’t need, the Air Force scrapped planes for pennies on the dollar and a $60 billion investment in the Afghan military was largely wasted.

The United States Agency for International Development has also been wasting money. Last month, we learned that half of the $769 million USAID spent on education in the country disappeared into ghost schools.

And it’s not just schools in Afghanistan — the agency can’t keep track of hospitals it claimed it built, either. USAID has spent $210 million to support Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health in its efforts to provide basic health services to the people of Afghanistan.

But it turns out the aid agency isn’t good at keeping track of the facilities the money ostensibly paid for. According to its own records, some of USAID’s Afghanistan facilities aren’t even in Afghanistan and one was in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

USAID has stated that cash went toward building facilities, training doctors and buying supplies. It claimed it built or helped build 641 facilities using the $210 million in taxpayer cash.

John Sopko — the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction — wanted to double check that list. USAID complied and sent SIGAR a list of coordinates for the buildings.

If you’ve read a story about waste in Afghanistan in the last few years, then you already know how the story played out. SIGAR took the geospatial data from USAID, then double checked it. The results were disturbing.

More than 550 of the 641 buildings referenced by USAID either don’t exist or aren’t in Afghanistan. That’s 80 percent of the buildings USAID claimed it helped build.

“My office’s initial analysis of USAID data and geospatial imagery has led us to question whether USAID has accurate location information … for … the 641 health care facilities funded by the PCH program,” Sopko wrote in a letter to USAID.

Above — a hospital, supposedly, in the middle of the mountains. SIGAR capture. At top — a REAL hospital in Ghazni province, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo

And it’s not as if USAID just lost track of the buildings. No, some of the problems are weirder than that. Of the 551 problem sites, the agency didn’t provide data on 90 of them. SIGAR felt that the USAID data on 56 of the 551 were completely faulty.

Of those 56, the data pinpointed six in Pakistan, six in Tajikistan and one in the Mediterranean. That’s right — the agency told Sopko that it built something in the middle of a sea.

Of the remaining 43 facilities, 30 were in a different province than USAID had listed and 13 were doubles.

So that leaves 495 sites left for SIGAR to check. But from this number, only 152 contained a building that matched the agency’s description. Almost 200 of the 495 facilities had no building within 400 feet of the agency’s reported coordinates. Half of those didn’t show a building within half a mile.

No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes

To be sure, record-keeping is hard and often downright impossible in a country as war torn and complicated as Afghanistan. It’s reasonable that USAID would lose track of some of its healthcare facilities, but 80 percent is unacceptable.

It’s also possible, even likely, that the Afghan Ministry of Public Health is confusing or lying about how it’s spending the money it receives from USAID.

The Afghan Ministry of Defense has pocketed cash meant for Afghan soldiers. In May, Asadullah Hanif Balkhi — Afghanistan’s new education minister — accused his predecessor of dipping into U.S. cash set aside to build schools.

It wouldn’t be the first time an Afghan government agency redirected U.S. funds to somewhere it was never meant to go.

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