“There is no evidence of reconciliation of monthly payroll records,” auditors wrote. “In fact, staff are receiving bonuses in cash which are not declared on their bank transfer.”
What’s worse, USAID concluded, is that the “same staff is recording and reconciling transactions.”
An examination of Afghanistan’s main power and electricity generating utility, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat — known as DABS — paints an equally bleak picture. The assessment, dated October 2012, found “significant weaknesses in DABS’ financial management and accounting system.”
“These weaknesses create opportunities for fraud, including off-balance sheet financing,” USAID auditors wrote. “Evidently DABS does not have sufficient financial management capacity to manage donors’ funds, without strong mitigation measures and/or substantial involvement from donors.”
Six of 12 risks that auditors identified for fraud and waste at DABS were assessed as “critical.” Six others, including the risk of DABS’ management “not being committed to sound organizational structure and competence,” were rated as “high.”
Documents prove oversight
Each of the assessments contains a section outlining the Obama administration’s 2010 policy to channel “at least 50 percent” of all U.S. government development aid to Afghanistan directly into the budget of the Afghan government.
Under the policy, USAID officials wrote, the agency is committed to evaluating the government capability of whatever nation is receiving aid — in this case Afghanistan. The point, the officials wrote, is to “understand the fiduciary risk environment in targeted countries” in order to decide whether a given nation’s agencies can be trusted with U.S. taxpayer money.
“If the assessment reveals clear evidence of vulnerabilities to corruption, and the partner country government fails to respond, the use of partner country systems must not be authorized,” USAID officials wrote.
Although the assessments go on to highlight such vulnerabilities across the Afghan ministries, USAID agreed as of August to channel roughly $695 million in “direct assistance” to those ministries.
USAID officials defended their actions Tuesday by pointing out that the agency has disbursed only about $200 million, specifically because of concerns about widespread fraud and corruption.
Mr. Herrick said suggestions that USAID has tried to hide the risk of such problems only “distract from the larger story that is often overlooked here — that USAID is protecting U.S. taxpayer money while providing critical development assistance and putting in place strict safeguards and oversight measures.”
“These documents, the Stage II assessments, very clearly demonstrate those oversight measures,” he said.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, asserted that it “is a common practice to redact information from the general public about vulnerabilities and other information that could be exploited by unscrupulous actors if exposed.”