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US Stuck Maintaining Shoddy, Vacant Afghan Facilities

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U.S. taxpayers are stuck paying maintenance costs for vacant and shoddily built Department of Defense (DOD)-funded construction projects in Afghanistan that never met contract or safety requirements.

Americans have already spent more than $1.1 billion since 2009 in Afghanistan on 44 DOD construction projects, 63 percent of which never met contract requirements, and 36 percent of which were unsafe to occupy, according to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko.

Roughly one-third of completed projects are still vacant, and contractors usually received full payment for poorly built and late projects. But continued corruption, political instability and a lack of resources in Afghanistan mean the Afghan government isn’t able to operate the facilities independently, and American taxpayers are on the hook until they can.

“Currently, it is unclear when the Afghan government will be able to take over this responsibility,” Sopko said in statements prepared for a Wednesday hearing on DOD Afghanistan construction projects before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Until it is able to do so, U.S. taxpayer funds will continue to be expended to sustain the facilities DOD has built for the Afghans.”

SIGAR has questioned the sustainability of Afghan projects since its first inspection reports in 2009. The results aren’t good.

Unprepared or unqualified contractor personnel, poor materials and inadequate oversight by the contractor and U.S. government created the many DOD project failures, the IG said.

“While some of the projects were well built and met contract requirements and technical specifications, most did not meet those requirements and specifications, and some of those had serious construction deficiencies that in some cases had health and safety implications,” Sopko said.

Four months after the Qesmatullah Nasrat Construction Company completed the Afghan Special Police Training Center’s dry fire range in October 2012 with DOD dollars, the range began to “disintegrate,” according to the IG.

A Kabul-area school inspected in 2013 had gaps between bricks in the walls supporting a concrete roof, making the project vulnerable to serious damage in an earthquake-prone region.

But the military drawdown in Afghanistan, coupled with deteriorating security in the country, often make it too dangerous for SIGAR staff to conduct on-site investigations and make sure projects are properly completed and used.

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