US watchdog finds holes in ANP payroll data
KABUL (Pajhwok): Despite a significant risk of funds being wasted, the US is spending more than $300 million annually on bankrolling Afghan National Police (ANP) salaries, a federal watchdog said on Monday.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) also blamed the US, UN and NATO for failing to resolve persistent weaknesses in the Afghan Interior Ministry’s management of police units across the country.
In a new audit report, the independent government body warned that as the Western presence in Afghanistan declined, the ability of donor countries to exercise flawless oversight would diminish.
"There is a significant risk that a large portion of the more than $300 million in annual US government funding for salaries will be wasted or abused if the problems are not addressed," the organisation said.
Problems with management of security personnel's affairs, numbering about 153,000, include officials’ failure to properly use electronic and other systems for ensuring that salaries go to the right troops.
SIGAR said Afghan police did not properly use identification cards issued to each recruit in part to track attendance. As cards of troops who leave police service are not confiscated, the report said, almost 150,000 invalid cards were in circulation.
Since 2002, the US has spent more than $15 billion to build Afghanistan’s police force. Through a trust fund administered by the UN Development Program, the US and other donor nations continue to fund police salaries and other costs.
But in the absence of reliable data from the Afghan government, SIGAR said, donor nations could not plan accurately and could not know ensure how many police officers were serving in which part of the country.
John Sopko, the special inspector general, said: “As we go forward, it’s [the Afghans’] responsibility for doing the fighting, and basically the police are the ones that are out there. It’s important to know how many police there are.”
“Despite 13 years and several billions of dollars in salary assistance to the Afghan government for the ANP, there is still no assurance that personnel and payroll data are accurate,” the report said.
SIGAR confirmed that in some cases, officers routinely forged daily attendance records for police in order to inflate their personnel numbers so they would receive more funding - and that Pentagon had no way of knowing which names were forged.
One in five ANP personnel ran the risk of not receiving their full salaries because they were paid in cash by an agent appointed by the interior ministry, a process that lacks documentation and accountability.
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