Afghanistan Watchdog Says Officials Blocking His Reports

By:  Warren Mass
05/14/2013
       
Afghanistan Watchdog Says Officials Blocking His Reports

John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), said in a speech delivered to the New America Foundation on May 8 that government “bureaucrats” have told him to stop making public his audits revealing waste, corruption, and mismanagement of projects to rebuild Afghanistan. Some government officials, said Sopko, have even complained that they cannot pre-screen or edit his reports.

John Sopko (shown in photo), the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction (SIGAR), said in a speech delivered to the New America Foundation on May 8 that government “bureaucrats” have told him to stop making public his audits revealing waste, corruption, and mismanagement of projects to rebuild Afghanistan. Some government officials, said Sopko, have even complained that they cannot pre-screen or edit his reports, Politico reported.

“Since my appointment by the president last summer, I have been surprised to learn how many people both in and out of the government do not understand the role of an independent inspector general,” said Sopko.

Sopko also said that more progress must be made in improving the security, economic, and political transitions before the United States completes it withdrawal of troops in December 2014, reported Reuters. The inspector general stated that Afghanistan must demonstrate that it can better manage development assistance that is starting to be placed directly into its budget. In Sopko’s opinion, “We need to have the courage to withhold funding, if progress is not made by the Afghan government.”

Sopko cited many of the inefficiencies and potentially corrupt practices that might hamper the ability of the Afghan government to take over its own defense. Reuters noted:

Sopko said in his speech that the Afghan Ministry of Defense may be incapable of buying fuel for the Afghan army once U.S. troops leave; the U.S. government could not account for the fuel it provided the army; the U.S. paid for repairs on police vehicles it had not seen for over a year; police buildings sit empty and a number of ghost employees and desertions mean that the total number of Afghan troops is unclear.

“It is hard to know if the Afghan army and police are ready if we don’t know how many troops are available to fight insurgent forces,” Sopko said.

“Over the last 10 months, I have been criticized by some bureaucrats for not pre-clearing my press releases with them, for not letting them edit the titles of my audits, for talking too much to Congress, for talking too much to the press … and, basically, for not being a ‘team player’ and undermining ‘our country’s mission in Afghanistan,’ ” Sopko said in his speech. He continued:

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