UN agency lax over Afghan police fund misspent millions-watchdog

Thu Oct 9, 2014 12:26pm EDT
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By Kieran Guilbert

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A United Nations agency in charge of administering billions of dollars in aid to Afghan police has come under renewed fire for mismanagement, including a failure to account for $200 million in deductions from a fund set up to improve law and order.

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko warned of growing concerns about fraud and lack of oversight in the management of the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA), run by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to pay for Afghan police salaries and pensions.

The United States has been building up Afghan security forces before withdrawing its combat troops by the end of this year. LOTFA has paid out $1.62 billion since January 1, 2011.

International donors have spent billions of dollars on reconstruction in Afghanistan, but it is ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and major donors are concerned about its lack of progress in fighting graft.

In a series of letters, Sopko said funds had been used to inflate police salaries and make payments to "ghost employees", and wrote of "questionable deductions" that the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) may have taken from police salaries.

"In particular, I requested that UNDP describe how it has accounted for up to $200 million in 'deductions' that the MoI may have taken from the salaries of (police) employees, who are paid with LOFTA funds," Sopko wrote in a letter to UNDP Administrator Helen Clark dated Sept.12 and released this month.

Sopko said he was disturbed to learn that LOTFA may have made direct cash payments to interior ministry and police staff. According to the UNDP's own records, this could have constituted a violation of Afghan law.

The UNDP played down its responsibility for overseeing LOTFA and failed to acknowledge "the problems that continue to plague this programme", the inspector general wrote.   Continued...