Fuel program for Afghan army jeopardized by missing records

A $1.1 billion program to supply fuel to the Afghan army as it struggles to take over from U.S. troops fighting the Taliban is lacking proper records detailing available funds and inventory, in part because many documents have been improperly shredded, auditors reported Monday.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction sent letters to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and regional commanders requesting immediate action to repair the petroleum, oil and lubricants program that the U.S. Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan has been providing to the Afghan National Army.

“During the conduct of this audit,” the letter said, the U.S. training command working on the transition of authority to Afghan commanders “informed us that its officials shredded all ANA POL financial records related to payments totaling nearly $475 million from October 2006 to February 2011.” Because shredding these documents is a violation of Defense Department and U.S. Army policies, “SIGAR would like to reiterate the importance of retaining all financial records given the importance of accountability, transparency, and oversight.” The IG asked Panetta to look into the causes and circumstances of the document destruction.

A second document, an interim report released by Special Inspector General John Sopko, concluded that the U.S. command in Afghanistan “does not have accurate or supportable information on how much in U.S. funds are needed for ANA fuel, where and how the fuel is used, or how much fuel has been lost or stolen.” It offers corrective actions to be taken before the deadline of Jan. 1, 2013, when much of the fuel program will be taken over by the Afghanistan government using direct U.S. payments.

The auditors recommended a reduction in funds for the fuel program and creation of an action plan to improve record-keeping. Commenting on a draft report, the training command disagreed with the proposal to cut funds.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Monday announced that its National Security Subcommittee will examine the SIGAR report “sounding the alarm about potential waste in the U.S. taxpayer funded” program.

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