Construction Flaws in Afghan Prison Merit a Refund from Contractor, Says Watchdog

Office of The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction,

An $11.3 million prison built under U.S. auspices in Afghanistan’s Baghlan Province contains dangerous construction deficiencies potentially traceable to fraud by an embassy employee and Afghan contractor staff, an audit found.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, on Tuesday released a report and vivid photos showing damaged unreinforced masonry on a site situated in an earthquake zone. The flawed construction presents “a safety risk to prisoners and workers and increases risk of prisoner escape,” the auditors said. 

The report, sent to Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham, warns that the prison that has been operating since November 2012 is overcrowded—designed by the State Department for 495 prisoners, it now houses 777. Lack of maintenance by the Afghan Interior Ministry adds further risk, SIGAR said, and a contractor failed to deliver a security fence and stormwater management system despite billing the United States for $170,400.

Settling of the structure produced serious cracks as well as collapsing walls, and one building has already been demolished, SIGAR said. But State’s Bureau of of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement has been unable to agree with the Afghan contractor, Omran Holding Group, on who is responsible for repairing the prison’s flaws due to reliance on prohibited low-grade plumbing materials and lack of steel reinforcements to the concrete.

Omran Holding Group also failed to deduct 10 percent from its billed invoices to create a retainage fund as required by the contract, leading to an $807,254 shortfall in funds that should have been retained in case of a contract dispute, the watchdog wrote. “SIGAR is currently conducting a preliminary inquiry to determine whether any OHG or embassy officials may have been complicit in” the alleged fraud.

SIGAR recommended that the secretary of State recoup the $807,254 and require the contractor to rebuild according to code. State agreed. 

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