The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) – a Pentagon Watchdog – has warned that billions of dollars of reconstruction cash flowing into Afghanistan are at risk with no accounting of where and how they are being spent.
SIGAR report faults World Bank-administered Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) that comprises 34 donor nations and agencies and has contributed more than $10 billion to Afghanistan’s reconstruction effort according to latest estimates. The US is the largest contributor to this fund having paid more than $3 billion since 2002.
The SIGAR report claims that the World Bank is unable to accurately gauge the impact of the funding. “Billions of dollars of donor funds contributed to the ARTF are at risk due to continued limitations on, and lack of transparency into, monitoring and accounting of ARTF funding by the World Bank and the government of Afghanistan,” SIGAR said in a statement.
In a revealing example, SIGAR says that when the World Bank approves reimbursements for Afghan workers, such as teachers, it does not require a third-party monitor to check that the salary recipients actually exist — despite acknowledging a risk of “undetected ghost workers.”
There is also some criticisms on the donors who are unable to specify where they want funds to go, which results in some monies being spent in regions controlled by the Taliban or other insurgent groups. The US Agency for International Development (USAID), the agency which contributes to the fund on behalf of the US Government, also told SIGAR it was “no longer preferencing funds by geographic location.
Since 2001, the US has spent 16.5 years and about $1 trillion overall in Afghanistan, yet the Taliban are still controlling significant chunks of the country.