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Watchdog: Follow the Money

Did the federal government misplace almost $70 million in Africa?

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View Bureau of African Affairs spending in a larger map Watchdog,Kelly Cohen,State Department,Africa,Waste and Fraud,Follow the Money,Government Grants,Liberia,Uganda

Ever wonder what it's like to spend nearly $70 million and not know where it went?

Ask the federal government, which gave $34.8 million in contracts and another $32.2 million in grants through the Bureau of African Affairs but failed to watch where the money went after that, according to the State Department's inspector general.

For example, the bureau awarded a contract worth more than $16.6 million to provide "operation and maintenance support" at two U.S. camps in Liberia.

The upgrades included power grid maintenance and oversight of arms given to the Liberian government by the U.S., among other upgrades.

The problem is the IG found no quality assurance plans, no evidence of site visits and incomplete or inaccessible contracting officer's representative records.

The contracting officer's representative is "responsible for oversight, inspection, and acceptance of goods, services, and construction," according to the IG.

The source of the problem, according to the IG, is the State Department's consistent failure to assign contracting officer representatives.

That, in turn, was a result of the bureau's failure to maintain an accurate list of how many representatives it had or whether they were even certified to do their job.

"Ultimately, [the bureau] jeopardized the success of contracts because inappropriately trained and inexperienced personnel oversaw the contracts," the IG said.

The IG found similar problems with bureau grants. A $440,000 grant to organize a "security reform symposium" in Liberia and a $200,000 grant to empower Ugandan women also lacked site visits and had missing performance and financial reviews.

Without this oversight, the bureau "could not have reasonable assurance that federal funds were spent in accordance with the grant award," the IG said.

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Author:

Kelly Cohen

Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner

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