Energy

US Built $43 Million Gas Station In Afghanistan

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

In 2011, the U.S. set out to build a $500,000 gas station in Afghanistan as part of an effort to revitalize their economy. The final cost came in at $42,718,739, recent reports show.

The Downstream Gas Utilization project, which was 8,000 percent over budget, is part of a larger probe into allegations of criminal wrongdoing in the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Afghanistan reconstruction efforts. John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR) is leading the investigation, calling the spending “outrages to the taxpayer” and slamming the DOD for a lack of transparency, reports Fox News.

“I have never in my lifetime seen the Department of Defense or any government agency clam up and claim they don’t know anything about a program,” said Sopko. “Who’s in charge? Why won’t they talk? We have received more allegations about this program than we have received about any other program in Afghanistan.”

The DOD’s program, called the Task Force for Stability and Business Operations (TFBSO) was charged with revitalization efforts in Iraq after 2003, and was moved to Afghanistan in 2009. Fox News reports the TFBSO was shut down in March 2015 however, and little information has been available since its closing.

“The closure of TFBSO in March 2015 and departure of all its employees have resulted in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) no longer possessing the personnel expertise to address these questions,” said Brian McKeon, the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy at the DOD in response to questions from Sopko last June.

Sopko has said that SIGAR has been tipped off to scores of corruption allegations within the TFBSO, however efforts to find more information have been met with road blocks from the DOD. According to Fox News, Joseph Catalino, former head of the task force, still works for the department as a senior official, however to the DOD maintains that they don’t have any information on the gas station project. They apparently don’t even know if the station is still operational, despite being built in 2011, reports NBC News.

“Frankly, I find it both shocking and incredible that DOD asserts that it no longer has any knowledge about TFBSO, an $800 million program that reported directly to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and only shut down a little over six months ago,” said Sopko, adding, “I’m suspicious when I see something that cost 140 times more than it did and I find people trying to withhold or not cooperate with me.”

A study done before the project was approved found that Afghanistan likely did not have a viable market for this kind of energy infrastructure reports NBC News, however the gas station was approved and a contract was awarded for $3 million to Central Asian Engineering. This contract figure is adding to the outrage that the DOD ended up spending just under 43 million. According to Fox News $12.3 million was in direct costs, while $30 million was spent on overhead.

The investigation by SIGAR has gained bipartisan support, with representative in both parties sounding off on the egregious misallocation of funds. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill said, “It’s hard to imagine a more outrageous waste of money than building an alternative fuel station in a war-torn country that costs more than 8,000 percent more than it should, and is too dangerous for a watchdog to verify whether it is even operational.”

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.