By: Neil Gordon
The Afghanistan reconstruction watchdog has sniffed out more waste. This time, we taxpayers are footing the bill for unused television production equipment donated to the Afghans.
Last week, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting information about a $3.6 million contract to purchase mobile television production trucks and equipment for Afghan TV networks to use for live sporting events. SIGAR found the three trucks were delivered more than two years late, one was damaged, the price of two had more than tripled, and the vehicles are currently sitting under tarps in Kabul, having never been used.
“If this information is accurate, it suggests that something is seriously wrong with the way this contract was managed,” Special Inspector General John Sopko wrote to Kerry.
According to SIGAR, the State Department entered into the contract with a division of truck and military vehicle manufacturer Oshkosh Corporation in August 2011. The contract originally specified five trucks, plus various communications equipment, at a cost of $6 million—three satellite/microwave television broadcast trucks at the unit price of $1,786,779, and two Ford ES350 trucks at the unit price of $157,300—to be delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in 6 to 7 months. In September 2013, the contract was amended to require only one satellite/microwave truck and two Ford ES350s. The unit price of the satellite/microwave truck was reduced by almost $200,000 (11 percent less), but the unit price of the Ford trucks increased by nearly $411,000 (260 percent more). The vehicles arrived in Afghanistan in mid-July 2014—more than two years late. One was damaged in transit.
None of the trucks have yet been placed into service. The State Department could still cancel the contract for default, “something State may wish to consider,” Sopko wrote in the letter. The contractor has already been paid “unspecified compensation” for costs incurred on the contract, according to SIGAR.
SIGAR gave the State Department until October 29 to provide answers to several questions about the contract.
The Afghanistan reconstruction effort is winding down and our attention is focusing on other global hotspots. It is heartening, therefore, to see SIGAR still vigorously pursuing its oversight mission.