By Josh Hicks
A $2.8 million facility the United States built in Afghanistan to store produce for local farmers has sat unused and unmaintained for more than a year, with Afghan officials still looking for a business to lease the property, according to a federal watchdog agency.
The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction issued a report Monday warning that the project, coordinated by the Defense Department’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, is at risk of failing.
“TFBSO has not achieved what it told us was the key to the project’s success — the operation, maintenance and control of the facility by an Afghan business,” the report said.
SIGAR criticized the Defense Department task force for not identifying an investor to take ownership of the facility in the Helmand province before beginning construction on the project.
The task force found an Afghan-based juice and produce company willing to take over the complex by August 2012, but the business backed out after suffering extensive damage to a similar facility it operates in Kabul, the nation’s capital, according to the report.
The agency said that identifying investors before making building such facilities will “reduce the risk of wasted funds resulting from completed but unused facilities.” The task force agreed with SIGAR’s assessment and said it is continuously incorporating lessons learned.
SIGAR described the Helmand project, which provides about 10,000 square feet of cold storage and 13,000 square feet of dry storage, as well-constructed.
“Such a facility would likely improve the ability of local Afghan farmers to preserve fruits and vegetables for sale to national and international markets, which could generate revenues far greater than selling their produce locally,” the report said.