MAY 17, 2016
Among the federal agencies that have disbursed huge sums to famously corrupt Afghanistan reconstruction causes is the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which has spent more than $11 million with the single biggest chunk of money going to a leftist charity whose president earns a stunning $600,000 a year. It’s a tiny snippet of the $113 billion Uncle Sam has blown on wasteful projects presented to American taxpayers as necessary to rebuild the Islamic country renowned as a hotbed of terrorism.
In the DOL’s case, the cash is supposed to fund programs that provide Afghans with an education, work and life skills as well as well as job training. The biggest single portion of the DOL investment has gone to the New York-based International Rescue Committee (IRC) to provide “vocational training for vulnerable Afghans” and programs that increase wages and self-employment. The IRC claims that it responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Last year a British newspaper reported that the head of IRC, former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, earns “a staggering $600,000 per year” at the nonprofit. That’s nearly four times the salary of the nation’s prime minister, the newspaper pointed out, and several hundred thousand more than the president of the United States.
Americans have given the IRC $3.4 million, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and the watchdog wants to know how the money is being spent and if program goals have been met. In a report issued this month SIGAR notes that, besides IRC, several other groups received lots of money without revealing how it was spent. UNICEF got $3 million to demobilize child soldiers and provide them with reintegration, psycho-social and medical support. The rest of the DOL money supposedly funded activities that included training Afghan women to produce school uniforms for Afghan girls, assisting the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled to improve protection of workers’ rights and reforming labor laws and regulations in the country. Raising awareness of child labor is another popular cause that got generous funding.
While the U.S. keeps the flood of cash flowing, there’s no follow up to determine if the huge investment has been effective. As of the end of 2015, the U.S. has appropriated about $113 billion for relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan, the watchdog writes in its latest DOL report. The largest portion—$96 billion—has been managed by the Department of Defense (DOD), the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Judicial Watch has reported extensively on this in the last few years and the fact that there’s virtually no oversight once the money has been doled out. The government does a pathetic job tracking programs’ successes of failures and SIGAR has faced huge obstacles in the course of its probes even though it’s supposed to be an independent watchdog with unlimited access to information necessary to expose government fraud or wrongdoing. When the watchdog launched an investigation into how Afghanistan reconstruction money is being spent agencies “provided disparate information,” the report states, which required “additional follow-up.”
An example is a case JW wrote about last year involving a $65 million allocation to help Afghan women escape repression. Details of how the money was spent and the effectiveness of the costly experiments were never made available, according a federal audit that found the government doesn’t have effective mechanisms for tracking the funds. In 2014 JW reported that the State Department spent $18.5 million to renovate a prison in Afghanistan that remains unfinished and unused years after the U.S.-funded work began. It turns out the State Department officer overseeing the multi-million-dollar boondoggle was corrupt and convicted for accepting bribes from an agency contractor. The U.S. also keeps sending hundreds of millions of dollars to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health despite multiple warnings of fraud and corruption inside the scandal-plagued agency.
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