U.S. officials don’t know where Afghanistan hospitals funded by a nearly $260 million program were actually built, a federal watchdog wrote Wednesday.
One Afghanistan hospital funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was located more than 430 miles away from the listed coordinates, while another 11 facilities were more than six miles away, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko wrote in a letter to the agency.
“SIGAR sought to conduct site inspections at 30 of 79 facilities in Badakhshan” – an Afghan province – but “was unable to locate one facility,” Sopko wrote. (RELATED: USAID Thinks It Has An Afghan Hospital In The Mediterranean)
“SIGAR found substantial inaccuracies in the geospatial coordinates USAID previously provided for many of these 29 health facilities and observed that not all facilities had access to electricity and drinking water,” the letter said.
Only 12 of the inspected facilities were located near the coordinates USAID provided.
The hospitals were funded as part of a $256.9 million USAID program, and the agency is expected to provide another $228 million for the facilities.
“Nevertheless, we maintain that accurate location-specific information, including geospatial coordinates, is critical to effective oversight,” Sopko wrote.
Additionally, coordinates for 22 of the 79 facilities “were not located in the districts listed in the most recent information available to USAID,” the letter said. “Coordinates for two health facilities were located in Pakistan, Afghanistan’s neighboring country to the southeast.”
USAID “does not intend to maintain coordinates” for clinics going forward and will instead rely on the World Bank and the Afghan government who are now handling the facilities, though the U.S. agency is still investing funds, an official told Sopko.
In fact, USAID refused to request an updated coordinate list from the Afghan government, Sopko wrote.
“USAID’s current position regarding its monitoring responsibilities is troubling,” Sopko wrote. “In previous SIGAR letters, we have repeatedly cited … documents that highlight reliable project location data as a critical tool in providing effective oversight and mitigating corruption.”
“Maintaining accurate GPS data would help the USAID” conduct site visits “and help ensure that the intended communities receive needed health services,” the watchdog continued.
The facilities’ safety was also questionable.
“[W]e did observe some basic structural concerns at most of the facilities, such as cracked walls, leaking roofs, broken doors, and shattered windows,” which “indicate clear concerns with sanitation and safety,” Sopko wrote.
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