The Pentagon has already spent more than $1 billion supplying Afghan troops with fuel, but officials have so little documentation they can't say where the fuel went or whether any fell into the hands of enemy insurgents.
For sloppy bookkeeping that has angered both parties in Congress, the Defense Department and Combined Security Transition Command in Afghanistan earn this week's Golden Hammer, a distinction awarded each week by the Washington Guardian to call attention to egregeious examples of waste, fraud or abuse in government.
Since 2007, the Defense Department program has given about $1.1 billion to the Afghan National Army to purchase fuel. But officials can't tell how much money is needed to purchase fuel, how the fuel is being used and if any is being stolen by insurgents, the government's chief financial watchdog for the Afghan reconstruction efforts divulged this week.
And now the program is being handed over to the Afghans, who will be in charge of purchasing the fuel while the Pentagon supplies an estimated $555 million annually between fiscal years 2014 to 2018.
"This is totally unacceptable," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, declared on Thursday after hearing the testimony of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko. "If the United States government can't track and verify these expenditures, then can we honestly expect the Afghan government to do better?"
Sopko's report said there were no "records of fuel purchase and payment information" because "financial records totaling nearly $475 million from fiscal year 2007 to February 2011 had been shredded in violation of DOD and Department of the Army policies."
"Based on our review to date," the report concluded, "CSTC‐A does not have accurate or supportable information on how much U.S. funds are needed for ANA fuel, where and how the fuel is actually used or how much fuel has been lost or stolen."
The program was criticized by members of both parties during a hearing Thursday of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.
"Delegating the authority and oversight of billions of taxpayer dollars to the Afghan government is a terrible idea," said Chaffetz, who serves as chairman of the subcommittee.
His Democratic colleagues agreed.
"The fuel and the funds used to purchase it are highly vulnerable to theft and waste. Against this background, it is highly worrisome that the training mission intends to transfer to the Afghan government direct control of logistics and U.S. taxpayer funds for fuel on January 1, 2013," said Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass. "It is imperative that these egregious issues be fixed before hundreds of millions of dollars go directly into the hands of the Afghan government."
CSTC-A agreed with the inspector general's recommendation that better documentation is needed of fuel costs and uses, but disagreed that funding for the program should be reduced until better safeguards were put into place. It argued the current levels of money are needed to maintain military operations.