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Afghanistan IG Finds Delays, Overpayments On USAID-Supported Hospital Construction Project

“A U.S.-funded effort to build a 100-bed civilian hospital in eastern Afghanistan has fallen almost two years behind its planned completion because of poor contractor performance and deficient internal controls, according to an inspector general’s audit [.pdf],” Bloomberg reports (Capaccio, 10/23). “The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said that construction of the 100-bed hospital in Gardez, Paktiya province, was 23 months behind schedule,” and “[i]t accused USAID’s implementing partner, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), of ‘weak internal controls’ that led to overpayments of at least $507,000,” Agence France-Presse writes. “USAID issued a statement saying that it was conducting an audit into the project, and would ‘take swift action to address any problems and recover funds’ if the allegations were proved to be true,” the news agency notes (10/23).

“In a letter to Rajiv Shah, the administrator of USAID, and William Hammink, USAID’s mission director in Afghanistan, John Sopko, who runs SIGAR, commended USAID’s intent to conduct an audit to determine whether there were additional contractor overpayments that needed to be returned to the U.S. government,” CNN’s “Security Clearance” blog notes (Crawford, 10/23). Richard Danziger, a spokesperson for IOM in Afghanistan, “pointed out that the hospital is being built in an active war zone,” Stars and Stripes writes, adding he said, “Under such circumstances, delays in project implementation are regrettably not unusual.” Danziger continued, “IOM will fully cooperate with a financial audit, which we are confident will show these [overpayment] allegations to be incorrect,” according to the news service (Standifer, 10/23). Politico’s “Morning Defense” blog notes, “[T]he IG’s underlying message about the hospital — that it’s too big and expensive for Afghans to manage and keep up on their own — reveals the office’s broader concerns about what could happen when U.S. funding dries up” (Brannen et al., 10/23).