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WASHINGTON: Afghanistan’s government does not appear able to manage the large amounts of direct aid the US and other countries have pledged, the US watchdog monitoring funds spent on Afghan reconstruction said.
John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (Sigar), raised a red flag over US plans to give Kabul billions of dollars more in direct aid instead of providing assistance through contractors and non-governmental organisations operating on behalf of the US government.
“The Afghan government does not appear to have the capacity to manage the amount of funding envisioned in the international community’s pledges of direct assistance,” Sopko told a House Committee in testimony prepared for a House of Representatives hearing.
He said oversight provisions, such as doling out funds incrementally instead of in large lump sums, should be built into direct aid programmes “to protect the American taxpayer.”
Sopko said Sigar would be monitoring the use of US aid, including whether programmes made clear contributions to US interests, and whether Afghans needed or even wanted them.
So far, the US has invested almost $100bn in Afghan reconstruction efforts, Sopko pointed out.
Afghanistan is regularly ranked as one of the world’s most corrupt countries.
More than $16bn pledged in future aid at an international donor’s conference in Tokyo last year was tied to a serious effort to crack down on graft.
But to provide Afghanistan with more control over aid, international donors also promised to increase the amount of direct aid to Kabul.
Sopko said the US government had committed to channel at least 50 percent of its development assistance through the Afghan national budget, but he had seen little progress in cleaning up fraud.
“Despite stated commitments from the Afghan government to address this problem, we continue to see reluctance on the part of Afghan officials to take serious action,” he said in written testimony to the National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee.