Lack of oversight in a State Department bureau's $47 million sole-source contract for justice training in Afghanistan raises serious concerns about whether U.S. taxpayer money is being spent properly, according to an alert letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction Thursday.
The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs contracted in January with the International Development Law Organization for a new criminal justice training program that replaced a program that had been run by PAE Inc. since 2005.
But the contract left out several important transparency provisions that U.S. contractors are normally subject to, according to SIGAR.
"SIGAR was disturbed to learn that the IDLO agreement contains even fewer oversight requirements than the PAE contract," Inspector General John F. Sopko wrote in the alert to Kerry. "This development indicates that INL may be scaling back its oversight of a program that is central to U.S. efforts to promote the rule of law in Afghanistan and which involves millions of dollars of taxpayer money."
The program provides criminal justice training for Afghan prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys and criminal investigators.
The agreement between INL and IDLO doesn't include monitoring and oversight requirements that were part of the program's predecessor, which is also under investigation by SIGAR for serious management problems, according to the letter.
INL also isn't conducting the line-by-line cost oversight of IDLO's spending that normally allows the government to evaluate costs before paying contractors, according to the letter.
"The State Department -- for some inexplicable reason -- gave IDLO $50 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars, then gave away any oversight of this foreign entity. The irony here is that State violated its own written policy and gave them a huge check to teach the Afghans about the 'rule of law.' As the saying goes, you can't make this up. We're going to get to the bottom of this and hold people accountable," Sopko said.