AUGUST 26, 2015
A $335 million Afghan power plant funded by American taxpayers is “severely underutilized” and the intermittent use of the costly facility has resulted in damage and premature failure, according to a federal audit.
It marks the latest of many scandals involving the U.S. government’s multi-billion dollar Afghanistan “reconstruction” effort, which has been rife with waste, fraud and abuse. A chunk of the money has gone to building roads, hospitals, schools and dams. This particular case involves the Tarakhil Power Plant in Kabul, which was supposed to help rebuild the war-torn Islamic republic and make life better for its citizens.
Tarakhil, a diesel-fueled plant constructed outside of Kabul was expected to provide affordable and reliable electricity considered critical to the economic growth and stability of Afghanistan. Instead it contributes a relatively small amount of electricity to the power grid serving Kabul, a federal investigation found. From February 2014 through April 2015, the Tarakhil Power Plant produced a mere 0.34 percent of the total power on the Kabul grid, according to the probe which was conducted by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
The multi-million dollar diesel-fueled Kabul power plant “does not seem to have contributed significantly” to the “important goal” of providing affordable and reliable electricity critical to the economic goal and stability of Afghanistan, the inspector general writes in its report. The document refers to the failed project as a “significant expenditure of U.S. taxpayer funds,” which is quite an understatement. “In addition to running far below its full capacity, the plant contributes a relatively small amount of electricity to the power grid serving Kabul,” the SIGAR report says. “From February 2014 through April 2015, the Tarakhil Power Plant produced only 0.34 percent of the total power on the Kabul grid.”
Not surprisingly, the scandal-plagued U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) oversees the Kabul power plant and insists it’s a “vital component” of the electrical grid serving the area despite its documented failures. With a massive budget and little oversight, USAID is charged with providing global economic, development and humanitarian assistance. The Kabul power plant is one of several USAID-run projects in Afghanistan and part of a broader crisis involving the free-flow of U.S. dollars to controversial causes in the country.
Last fall Judicial Watch wrote about a scathing SIGAR report documenting how the Clinton State Department blew $18.5 million to renovate a prison in Afghanistan that remains unfinished and unused years after the U.S.-funded work began. That watchdog probe found that the State Department officer overseeing the multi-million-dollar fleecing was corrupt and actually convicted for accepting bribes from an agency contractor. As a result only half the contracted work got done and it was later determined to be defective by an independent firm. This includes failure to backfill trenches, improper roof flashing, soil settlement issues and the failure to connect six back-up generators to the prison’s power grid.
The U.S. has also dedicated huge sums of money to Afghan programs with a documented history of fraud and corruption. For example, hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars were allocated to Afghanistan’s scandal-plagued healthcare system despite multiple warnings of fraud and corruption inside the Afghan Ministry of Public Health. The money was supposed to fund prenatal care for women, hospitals, physicians’ salaries and other medical costs. A few years earlier $475 million in oil—compliments of Uncle Sam—destined for the Afghan National Army vanished.
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