KABUL: In its latest report sharply criticizing U.S. government aid programs, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction charged Thursday that millions of U.S. dollars being spent on public health programs is “at risk of waste, fraud and abuse” and that there is “little assurance” the funds are being used as intended, Washington Post reported.
The report, made available here by officials of the U.S. Agency for International Development, recommended that no further U.S. funding be provided to Afghanistan’s Public Health Ministry for basic services “until program costs are validated as legitimate.” It called for aid officials to address 55 “deficiencies” found in a previous review of the ministry’s financial practices before spending any more money.
The criticism was focused on a $236 million USAID program called Partnership Contracts for Health, which provides, among other things, immunizations, prenatal exams, hospital equipment and salaries in 13 Afghan provinces. Most of the services are delivered through local nonprofit groups, reaching hundreds of thousands of people who have little means to pay for them.
USAID officials here, in a hastily arranged briefing Thursday for American journalists, strongly rejected the accusations made by the special inspector general, known as SIGAR. They said that no U.S. funds were being provided directly to the ministry and that they had set up a special unit inside the ministry, along with other foreign donors, to monitor all grants and contracts.
The report is the latest in a series of hard-hitting critiques of U.S. aid management and practices issued by SIGAR in recent months. The Afghanistan aid mission is one of the largest in the world, and Congress has appropriated more than $95 billion for Afghan reconstruction since the Islamist Taliban regime was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.