Notes from Win Tompkins, a PCFR member and student at the Met School:
John Sopko, who runs the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), spoke at Brown University’s Watson institute on Nov. 18.
SIGAR is the temporary agency created by Congress to oversee the billions in American taxpayer money that has been spent on the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Since he took the helm of the agency, in 2008, SIGAR’s work has led to 300 audits, 600 recommendations, 900 investigations and 103 arrests. All those arrests ended with convictions or plea deals. This has been estimated to save U.S. taxpayers $900 million.
However, corruption within the country is still massive, in every aspect of society.
Mr, Spoko suggested that this problem is not being alleviated by Defense Department interference in various projects. The DOD held the opinion that projects such as schools, hospitals and other infrastructure must be built no matter what, which leads to corruption and waste that the DOD is unwilling or unable to stop.
Another problem is the poor communication among the U.S., Agency for International Development, DOD and SIGAR, all of which are carrying out their own agendas and projects and do not communicate well with each other what they are doing.
For example, a program meant to assist Afghan women called PROMOTE was botched when our European allies were not only not made aware that the U.S. expected them to commit a total of $200 million to the program. Indeed, they were unaware of the program's existence!
Corruption undermines the solvency and legitimacy of the Afghan government. People will not trust institutions that shake down its own citizens for money, leading to more support for the Taliban or just general apathy, and a general erosion of the central government’s authority.