The United States is giving Afghan security forces $1.4 billion to buy gasoline through 2018 despite evidence that some of the money has been siphoned off in the face of a continuing high risk of fraud and waste.
That's one of the core findings of a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which Congress created in 2008 to help track the nearly $100 billion the United States has spent on rebuilding the war-torn country in South Asia.
"Poor oversight and documentation of blanket purchase agreements and fuel purchases resulted in the use of higher-priced vendors and questionable costs to the U.S. government," SIGAR found in a report released Wednesday.
Questions about the gas money come as the United States is switching from buying the fuel and delivering it to the Afghan Army and the Afghan National Police to a system of making direct payments to those forces.
The gas funds have gone through the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, which trains Afghan military and other security forces from its headquarters at Camp Eggers in Kabul.
The joint command was headed by U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo, who also oversaw NATO training of Afghan forces. Under his command were other U.S. officers along with senior military leaders from Britain, Canada and Poland. He was replaced last month by Army Lt. Gen. Maj. Gen. Kevin R. Wendel.
In one example of suspected abuse, the Helmand Provincial Police Headquarters in one of the most embattled regions of Afghanistan received more fuel than it had capacity to store over 28 months. Despite suspecting that "the excessive fuel deliveries were instances of potential fraud," the joint command increased fuel deliveries to the Helmand police hub "without investigating the suspected fraud," the SIGAR report said.
Although it considered the fuel-delivery program to be at "high risk for waste, fraud and abuse," the joint command approved the provision of $243 million in direct funding for gas to the Afghan Army and police units for the 2014 fiscal year that began Oct. 1, the report said.
The joint command has been buying gas for the Afghan forces since 2006, but "it does not have reliable information on the number of Afghan National Police vehicles and generators in use, nor has it received consumption data," the inspectors found.
"Significant funds could be put at increased risk of waste, fraud and abuse should (the joint command) proceed with its plans to directly contribute $1.4 billion to the Afghan government through fiscal year 2019 for Afghan National Police fuel," the report said.