- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A contractor building a U.S.-financed hospital in Afghanistan was paid nearly $600,000 despite the fact the facility had no clean water, little medical equipment and only enough electricity to power three lightbulbs, an investigation found.

“Because there was no clean water, staff at the hospital were washing newborns with untreated river water,” said a report released Wednesday from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the government internal watchdog for the Afghan mission. “The limited electricity — one light bulb in each of the rooms being used — has made it difficult to treat patients.”

SIGAR inspectors have been reporting near-daily examples of fiscal waste, fraud and abuse that are draining the roughly $100 billion the U.S. has given in aid, although U.S. military and civilian officials have both questioned some of the agency’s conclusions.

In the latest report, U.S. forces contracted with an Afghanistan company, Shafi Hakimi Construction, to build a 20-bed hospital facility in Salang, in the northeastern part of the country.

Now investigators are demanding answers as to why the contractor was paid in full despite leaving the hospital construction incomplete.

Investigators found that the roof leaked, no well was dug to provide clean water, and solar panels and generators designed to deliver electricity were never installed.

“The hospital staff told us they are paying the equivalent of about $18 a month of their own money to a neighbor to provide enough electricity to operate one light bulb in each of three hospital rooms,” the SIGAR report said.

Inspectors also said the building itself was unstable, with poorly fastened joints and unsupported walls.

“Since Salang district is located in one of the most active seismic zones of Afghanistan, these problems with the structural integrity of Salang hospital increase the risk of structural collapse during an earthquake,” the report said.

SIGAR said that U.S. Forces-Afghanistan task force, the Pentagon office that would oversee the construction contracts, has yet to respond to the findings.