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Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Needs to Provide Better Accountability and Transparency Over Direct Contributions

October 1, 2014 Comments off

Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Needs to Provide Better Accountability and Transparency Over Direct Contributions
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General

Objective

Our objective was to determine whether the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s (GIRoA) Ministries of Defense (MoD) and Interior (MoI) have controls in place to ensure a transparent and accountable fiscal process for the direct funding provided for the sustainment of the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF).

Findings

GIRoA lacked the basic controls to provide reasonable assurance that it appropriately spent $3.3 billion of ASFF direct contributions. These controls are key aspects of a transparent and accountable fiscal process. Specifically,

  • Ministry of Finance (MoF) could not provide a current cash balance for direct contributions or account for currency gains of at least $110.4 million made on Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) direct contributions.
  • MoF could not provide support for $17.4 million and MoI could not support $9.9 million withheld from ANSF salaries.
  • MoD and MoI controls over the payroll process were not adequate.
  • MoI processed $40 million in payroll payments that appeared improper.
  • MoD and MoI incorrectly charged $82.7 million of ASFF direct contribution funds.
  • This occurred because GIRoA did not develop the ministerial capability and capacity tomanage and oversee ASFF direct contributions and Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan (CSTC-A) had not held GIRoA accountable for not implementing controls and improper handling of ASFF direct contribution funds.

As a result, CSTC-A could not verify that GIRoA used ASFF direct contributions properly or for their intended purposes. In addition, the $13 billion in additional direct contributions DoD plans to provide to the ANSF between FY 2015 and FY 2019 may be subject to wasteful spending and abuse.

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New From the GAO

September 30, 2014 Comments off

New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office
Reports

1. Afghanistan Equipment Drawdown: Progress Made, but Improved Controls in Decision Making Could Reduce Risk of Unnecessary Expenditures. GAO-14-768, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-768
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666236.pdf

2. Bureau of Prisons: Information on Efforts and Potential Options to Save Costs. GAO-14-821, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-821
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666255.pdf

3. Unmanned Aerial Systems: Department of Homeland Security’s Review of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Use and Compliance with Privacy and Civil Liberty Laws and Standards. GAO-14-849R, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-849R

4. Elections: Observations on Wait Times for Voters on Election Day 2012. GAO-14-850, September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-850
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666251.pdf

Press Release

1. GAO Makes Appointment to PCORI Governing Board. September 30.
http://www.gao.gov/press/pcori_governing_board_2014sep30.htm

Violence against Women and Girls : Lessons from South Asia

September 23, 2014 Comments off

Violence against Women and Girls : Lessons from South Asia
Source: World Bank

This report documents the dynamics of violence against women in South Asia across the life cycle, from early childhood to old age. It explores the different types of violence that women may face throughout their lives, as well as the associated perpetrators (male and female), risk and protective factors for both victims and perpetrators, and interventions to address violence across all life cycle stages.

The report also analyzes the societal factors that drive the primarily male — but also female — perpetrators to commit violence against women in the region. For each stage and type of violence, the report critically reviews existing research from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, supplemented by original analysis and select literature from outside the region. Policies and programs that address violence against women and girls are analyzed in order to highlight key actors and promising interventions.

Finally, the report identifies critical gaps in research, program evaluations, and interventions in order to provide strategic recommendations for policy makers, civil society, and other stakeholders working to mitigate violence against women in South Asia.

CRS — Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs (September 12, 2014)

September 19, 2014 Comments off

Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress has enacted a series of legislative provisions since 2006 to enable certain Iraqi and Afghan nationals to become U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs). These provisions make certain Iraqis and Afghans who have worked as translators or interpreters, or who were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan, eligible for special immigrant visas (SIVs). Special immigrants comprise a category of permanent employment-based admissions under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). While the special immigrant category is unique, it does bear some similarities to other admission categories that are authorized by other sections of the INA, including refugees and Amerasian children.

Left in the Dark: International Military Operations in Afghanistan

August 18, 2014 Comments off

Left in the Dark: International Military Operations in Afghanistan
Source: Amnesty International

Thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed since 2001 by international forces, and thousands more have been injured. This report examines the record of accountability for civilian deaths caused by international military operations in the five-year period from 2009 to 2013. In particular, it focuses on the performance of the US government in investigating possible war crimes and in prosecuting those suspected of criminal responsibility for such crimes. Its overall finding is that the record is poor.

CRS — Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance (updated)

August 6, 2014 Comments off

Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

The capacity, transparency, legitimacy, and cohesiveness of Afghan governance are crucial to Afghan stability as U.S.-led NATO forces exit Afghanistan by 2016. The size and capability of the Afghan governing structure has increased significantly since the Taliban regime fell in late 2001, but the government remains weak and rife with corruption. Hamid Karzai has served as president since late 2001; he is constitutionally term-limited and will leave office after the conclusion of presidential and provincial elections. The first round of took place on April 5, 2014, and the results required a June 14 runoff between Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani.

The runoff increased ethnic tensions between Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest group represented by Ghani, and the second largest group the Tajiks, with whom Abdullah is identified. Amid accusations by Abdullah of a fraud-inspired large increase in turnout between the two rounds, preliminary results released July 7 showed Ghani ahead 56% to 44%. With Abdullah’s supporters urging him to declare himself the winner and form a government, Secretary of State Kerry visited Afghanistan to broker a July 12 resolution of the dispute. Under the agreement, all 23,000 ballot boxes would be recounted under international supervision, and the winner of the election would agree to appoint the loser as a “chief executive” of government, pending a more permanent constitutional alteration to a prime ministerial system. The recount has proceeded more slowly than expected due to distrust between the two camps and there are differing expectations for the post-election power-sharing agreement. The vote count might not be completed and a new president sworn in until well into September 2014.

Lack of Planning in $34.4 Million Department of Agriculture Soybean Program in Afghanistan

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Lack of Planning in $34.4 Million Department of Agriculture Soybean Program in Afghanistan (PDF)
Source: Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

The Honorable Tom Vilsack Secretary U.S. Department of Agriculture

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Thank you for your response to my inquiry letter dated April 17, 2014, concerning the Soybeans for Agricultural Renewal in Afghanistan Initiative (SARAI) funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). After examining the materials that you provided, I’m concerned about the viability of the project and the apparent lack of analysis and planning performed prior to the project’s initiation. I’m most troubled by the following issues:

• The USDA confirmed that soybean production in Afghanistan has not met expectations and that there are doubts concerning the long-term sustainability of a soybean processing factory built as part of the project.

• The project’s implementer, the American Soybean Association, did not conduct feasibility or value-chain studies prior to initiation of the project in 2010.

• Scientific research conducted for the UK Department for International Development between 2005 and 2008 concluded that soybeans were inappropriate for conditions and farming practices in northern Afghanistan, where the program was implemented.

• Despite the lack of prior planning and analysis, and despite evidence that may have put the success of the program in doubt, USDA provided $34.4 million in commodities, transportation, and administrative funds to ASA for SARAI.

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