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U.S. watchdog reveals money wasted or stolen during Afghan mission now totals more than $4 billion

Canadian soldiers on  foot patrol near the Afghan village of Haji Baba in 2009.
Canadian soldiers on foot patrol near the Afghan village of Haji Baba in 2009.

The American government watchdog who keeps an eye on the U.S. money flowing into Afghanistan has another scathing report out. The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction or SIGAR has released updated information on the amount of money earmarked for Afghanistan but lost to waste, fraud, and abuse.

SIGAR has kept watch on where U.S. tax dollars go, or don’t go, in Afghanistan since2008.

Canada, in contrast, never had such a watchdog for the billions of dollars that Canadian taxpayers spent in Afghanistan. The Office of the Auditor General conducted only two examinations specifically related to Canada’s Afghan mission; one on vehicles purchased by the Canadian Forces and the other on the military supply chain. No audits were ever done by the Auditor General on the $1.9 billion Canada spent on aid for Afghanistan or any other aspect of the mission.

In the latest report SIGAR revealed the following:

— SIGAR identified approximately $3.4 billion ($4.4 billion Canadian) in waste, fraud, and abuse in 111 published reports and 55 closed investigations between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019.

— Of this total, we specifically identified approximately $1.5 billion in taxpayer funds that we believe were wasted, $300 million that were lost to fraud, and $34 million that we believe were lost due to abuse. The remaining $1.6 billion was allocated to counter-narcotics efforts that we believe were wasted.

— These totals, coupled with the $15.5 billion of waste, fraud, and abuse and failed whole-of -government efforts SIGAR reported in July 2018, brings the total amount of waste, fraud, and abuse identified by SIGAR’s work to approximately $19 billion from May 2009 through December 31, 2019.

— As of December 31, 2019, the U.S. Congress appropriated nearly $134 billion since Fiscal Year 2002 for Afghanistan reconstruction. Of that amount, SIGAR reviewed approximately $63 billion and concluded that a total of approximately $19 billion or 30 percent of the amount reviewed was lost to waste, fraud, and abuse.

— SIGAR has reviewed approximately 47 percent of the $134 billion that has been appropriated for Afghanistan reconstruction since 2002.

— Of the 111 products and 55 closed investigations we reviewed over the past two years, we identified 323 instances of waste, fraud, and abuse valued in total between $769 million and $1.8 billion. Not all instances of waste had an associated dollar value.

— Waste accounted for approximately 90 percent of the 323 instances of waste, fraud and abuse identified. 209 of these instances of waste were valued at approximately $1.5 billion and include programs and projects that lacked clear program goals, performance measures, and quality data to support management decisions, as well as assets that were not used, abandoned, or posed safety hazards.

— SIGAR’s work through December 31, 2019, has resulted in about $3.2 billion in savings for the U.S. taxpayer. Based on our audit recommendations, we identified approximately half of this savings, or $1.6 billion, as funds that agencies could put to better use for other programs or efforts. The other half of the $3.2 billion in savings, or $1.6 billion, reflects the results of SIGAR’s investigative work.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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