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Independent Audit Critical Of USAID Funds For Afghan Health Projects

“An independent audit released Thursday accused [USAID] of ‘reckless disregard toward the management of U.S. taxpayer dollars,’ prompting an angry rebuttal from the agency leading American reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan,” the Los Angeles Times reports (Bengali, 9/5). “In its latest report [.pdf] sharply criticizing U.S. government aid programs, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction [SIGAR] charged Thursday that millions of U.S. dollars being spent on public health programs is ‘at risk of waste, fraud and abuse’ and that there is ‘little assurance’ the funds are being used as intended,” the Washington Post writes, noting the report “recommended that no further U.S. funding be provided to Afghanistan’s Public Health Ministry for basic services ‘until program costs are validated as legitimate'” and “called for aid officials to address 55 ‘deficiencies’ found in a previous review of the ministry’s financial practices before spending any more money” (Constable, 9/5). “The auditor suggested ‘returning the excess obligations to the U.S. Treasury for better use,'” according to the Fiscal Times (Ehley, 9/5).

“The program at the heart of SIGAR’s audit is the Partnership Contracts for Health, designed to help deliver health services to local Afghan hospitals and clinics,” Stars and Stripes notes, adding, “The USAID funds are used to pay for contracts with non-governmental organizations that provide health care in various provinces around Afghanistan” (Smith, 9/5). “An official with [USAID] however struck back and defended their work,” according to Devex, which adds, “The official, who declined to be named in order to avoid the agency’s clearance process, told Devex the report published by [SIGAR] glosses over the success the programs have achieved in the country, and barely mentions the significant risk mitigation processes USAID has put in place to ensure better accountability in reconstruction spending” (Igoe, 9/6). “USAID has promised to review its funding and determine whether the Afghan health agency could be misusing taxpayer funds,” the Washington Free Beacon notes (Kredo, 9/5).