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US investigating 38 cases of reconstruction abuse

US investigating 38 cases of reconstruction abuse

The U.S. agency overseeing the multibillion dollar Afghanistan reconstruction effort is investigating 38 criminal cases ranging from contract fraud to theft _ most involving non-Afghans, officials said Tuesday.
The reconstruction effort has come under increased scrutiny as Defense Department contractors pour into Afghanistan to support the U.S. military surge. But the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, headed by retired Marine Corps Gen. Arnold Fields, was only established by Congress in 2008, nearly seven years after the U.S. invasion to oust the Taliban.
Just 10 of the criminal cases under the microscope involve Afghans only, while the rest involve U.S. and other foreigners, according to Raymond DiNunzio, the agency's assistant inspector general for inspections. He would not elaborate since the cases are under investigation.
Afghanistan also faces intense pressure to control rampant corruption in the country, but its institutions are weak after years of war and civil strife.
Fields acknowledged that the government might not be ready to deal with the flow of additional funds into Afghanistan as the international communicate escalates the mission to stabilize the country.
"We suspect ... that there may not necessarily be the capacity here to absorb additional funding when it comes to the government of Afghanistan, but we are not sure yet," he said at a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
He said his office also plans to increase staff from 90 in 2008 to 118 by the end of this year and a projected 132 in 2011.
"We are ramping up commensurate with the increased numbers and spending expected here in Afghanistan," he said.
The international community has invested more than $60 billion since 2002 in reconstruction efforts, including $40 billion from the U.S. alone. Concerns have been raised in past months that the waste and fraud that has undermined the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq is being repeated in Afghanistan, particularly as the number of contractors rises.
More than 60 percent of the investigators had experience in Iraq, DiNunzio said.
"They have come over from our sister agency responsible for Iraq reconstruction as the U.S. winds down its involvement in that country," he said.
DiNunzio said 40 percent of the criminal cases involve allegations of program fraud, procurement fraud or contract fraud while the other 60 percent involve bribery allegations and theft of emergency military funds. Two other investigations are under way into cases involving alleged negligence and incompetence, he said.
The agency also has stepped up efforts to involve the public, opening a hot line for reports of fraud involving U.S. reconstruction funds.
The inspector general's office is responsible for monitoring a broad range of projects, including training of the Afghan army and police, and ensuring U.S. tax dollars are spent properly.


Updated : 2021-10-22 12:53 GMT+08:00