New examples of U.S. taxpayer money being wasted in Afghanistan continue to be uncovered by government investigators.
A storage facility in the Helmand province with a price tag of $2.89 million "has never been used," according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
The Gereshk Cold and Dry Storage Facility was built by the Department of Defense's Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, but a review of documents, including photos and site-visit reports by SIGAR, shows it has gone untouched since completion.
The Gereshk area has lots of Taliban insurgent activity, which not only prevented an on-site inspection by SIGAR, but is a direct cause of the facility's stagnation, SIGAR said.
At one point, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considered stopping construction because of security concerns in the region, but instead "assessed liquidated damages of $223,317 to keep the pressure on the contractor to complete the project," SIGAR said.
Location of the Gereshk facilityThe Corps of Engineers couldn't safely keep an inspector on-site to oversee construction, a cause of several deficiencies around the facility.
After construction of the 23,000-square foot facility was completed in May 2013 — nearly eight months behind schedule — it was transferred to the Afghan government in September, with the goal of local businesses leasing it for use.
But, as of April, SIGAR learned the facility "had never been used and was not being maintained."
The facility interior, including a view of the cooling equipment (Photo: SIGAR)Several Afghan investors have expressed interest in leasing the facility, but so far no deals have been reached, SIGAR said.
The facility "could have been a success story," according to SIGAR, but the concern of insurgent activity in the area continues to prevent it.
"Unless that concern can be overcome, the United States may face yet another situation where taxpayers’ money may have been wasted, in this case $2.89 million," according to the report.
With future investment projects, DOD should ensure "there are willing investor(s) capable of assuming ownership of and responsibility for maintaining constructed facility" — or make sure the Afghan government will be able to take over the responsibilities, SIGAR suggested.
The Task Force for Business and Stability Operations originally built the facility "with the intention of it serving as a hub for agricultural development within the province," according to SIGAR.