SEPTEMBER 12, 2013
Multiple warnings of fraud and corruption inside the Afghan Ministry of Public Health haven’t deterred the U.S. government from sending hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars to support the Islamic republic’s scandal-plagued healthcare system.
As we’ve seen with many of the U.S. government’s foreign aid programs, this one has proven to be a huge waste that nevertheless keeps getting funded. It involves an agency that’s often embroiled in scandal, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is charged with providing economic, development and humanitarian assistance worldwide.
USAID has a massive budget and it doles out billions to feel-good causes like reducing global poverty and under nutrition in Africa and to help Asians learn enough English to work in offshore call centers for American businesses. Crazy as it may seem, this is how American tax dollars are being spent around the world.
In this case USAID has dedicated $236 million over nine years to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health to pay for the healthcare needs of people in Afghanistan. The money is supposed to fund prenatal care for women, hospitals, physicians’ salaries and other medical costs. It’s part of $90 billion in assistance that Uncle Sam has given Afghanistan, mainly for police and military expenses.
But corruption is rampant in Afghanistan’s health agency and for years USAID has known about it, though it hasn’t slowed the cash flow. The warnings have come mostly from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which was created precisely to protect American tax dollars in the Asian country’s large assistance effort. In the last few years SIGAR has published its findings involving serious issues with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health.
The latest report was released this week and it paints an ugly picture of what is going on with our money, again warning USAID that the Afghan agency lacks the necessary controls and oversight to prevent waste, fraud and abuse. “In our view, this is a reckless disregard toward the management of U.S. taxpayer dollars,” the watchdog writes in the report.
Strong evidence exists that funds provided to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health are at risk of misuse, the inspector general found, concluding that there’s a strong enough case to warrant an immediate cutoff of U.S. assistance until the program’s budget is checked and future payments are tied to reform milestones. Despite the Afghan’s management deficiencies USAID continues to provide millions of dollars in direct assistance with little assurance that the funds are being used as intended, the report says.
The continuous flow of money to this corrupt public health agency is downright outrageous considering the warnings. Then again, this is par for the course at USAID, which has been embroiled in a number of controversies that rarely seem to catch the mainstream media’s attention. Just a few weeks ago Judicial Watch reported USAID’s involvement in a scandal surrounding Haiti earthquake recovery and the Clintons.
Roughly half of the $1.14 billion that the U.S. government allocated to help Haiti recover from the 2010 earthquake has gone to wasteful projects with the single largest chunk—$170.3 million—going to a failed port and power plant adventure heavily promoted by Bill Clinton and the State Department under the leadership if his wife. USAID is at the center of the scandal because it has allocated the single largest chunk of Haiti money, $651 million, and yet there’s little to show for it.
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