Pentagon Struggles to Teach Afghan Government Accountability Controls

U.S. Navy engineers talk to Afghan officials in Khost Province, Afghanistan. U.S. Navy engineers talk to Afghan officials in Khost Province, Afghanistan. Photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Julianne M. Showalter

Among the many reasons for the slow progress in stabilizing war-torn Afghanistan is poor communication between U.S. inspectors and the Kabul government on how U.S. support is tracked.

That’s the gist of a newly declassified report released in redacted form last August by the Defense Department’s inspector general reviewing the ability of the Afghan government to cost-effectively receive U.S. aid and transparently account for spending on personnel and equipment.

Afghan Defense Ministry officials working with U.S. and coalition advisers have begun implementing information-management systems designed to provide systemwide checks and balances, the report noted. But Afghan inspectors general have failed to follow established standards and there are too few advisers at the tactical level to ensure compliance in preventing waste and fraud.

As a result, “the leadership lost opportunities to take specific actions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of operations, accurate reporting, and compliance with applicable Afghan laws.”

While the Afghans are unfamiliar with U.S. methods for conducting inspections and preparing reports, part of the problem is a shortage of well-trained U.S. and coalition IG advisers to help the Afghans improve inspection quality, the report noted. “In the past, the advisers were working directly with their [Army Corps] staff to bring direct pressure on the Afghan leadership to do something,” one U.S. official interviewed said. “Although this is still needed, no one is doing it.”

More than a year after the Defense Ministry issued a policy requiring development of an agency internal control program for expenditures, none of its components, U.S. auditors learned, had submitted complete plans suitable for an Afghan inspector general to submit to top ministry officials.

Additionally, “some Afghan National Army commanders imposed limitations on how IGs conduct inspections,” it added. “These limitations, along with confusion on the part of the Afghan National Army Judge Advocates and IGs about their roles and responsibilities, limited those IGs' ability to combat corruption.”

Furthermore, the Afghan ministry’s own IG “did not adhere to their established inspection standards for report writing, development of recommendations, and follow-up on those recommendations,” the report noted.

Among five recommendations for addressing the shortfalls is that the coalition commander for Operation Resolute Support advise the Defense Ministry and Afghan National Army Chief to emphasize the importance of implementing spending controls.

Auditors also recommended Afghan policies and procedures on spending be updated to comply with national laws.

And the report recommended that U.S. and coalition advisers help the minister of Defense “clarify and update policy to eliminate commander-imposed confusion limitations on inspectors general and clarify roles and responsibilities between inspectors general, G2 Intelligence, and Staff Judge Advocate personnel.” That would also involve advising Army Corps commanders “to eliminate obstacles to the ability of Corps IGs to combat corruption.”

U.S. officials generally agreed.

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