A foreign company hired by the U.S. government to mentor and train Afghan intelligence officers billed Uncle Sam for more than $50 million in luxury cars – including Porsches, an Aston Martin, and a Bentley – and the lucrative salaries of executives and their spouses (who didn’t do any work). The firm also spent $1,500 on alcohol and $42,000 on automatic weapons prohibited under the terms of the contract, according to figures provided by a U.S. Senator from a federal audit that has not been released to the public.
It marks the latest of many scandals involving the free-flow of American dollars to controversial causes in Afghanistan, where fraud and corruption are rampant in all sectors.
In this latest case, the Department of Defense (DOD) hired a British firm called New Century Consulting (NCC) to operate a program called “Legacy East” that was supposed to provide counterinsurgency intelligence experts to mentor and train Afghan National Security Forces. Instead, NCC billed the Pentagon millions of dollars in questionable or unallowable expenses, including seven luxury cars and exorbitant $400,000 average salaries for the “significant others” of corporate officers to serve as “executive assistants.” Other prohibited expenses include severance payments, rent, unnecessary licensing fees, extensive austerity pay, and the cost of personal air travel. The outrageous figures became public when the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Claire McCaskill, wrote a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis demanding answers. As a federal lawmaker McCaskill had access to the information after viewing a report from the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), which provides financial oversight of government contracts for the Pentagon and operates under the Secretary of Defense.
McCaskill discloses that the British firm continued receiving lucrative DOD contracts despite having “many previous problems,” involving billing and performance practices. The senator also questions why the Pentagon kept pouring money into a “troubled” program that a separate federal audit had determined was likely ineffective. That assessment, made by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), came after investigators found that a lack of performance metrics makes it nearly impossible to assess whether the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the mentoring and training programs for Afghan intel personnel are effective. “Despite all of the listed issues with NCC’s performance and billing practices, the Army continued to engage in contracting with NCC for sensitive work in Afghanistan,” McCaskill states in her letter to Mattis.
Afghanistan reconstruction has been a huge debacle that continues fleecing American taxpayers to the tune of billions and Judicial Watch has reported extensively on it over the years. Many of the details are regularly disclosed in provoking reports published on the SIGAR website. Highlights include the mysterious disappearance of nearly half a billion dollars in oil destined for the Afghan National Army, a $335 million Afghan power plant that’s seldom used and an $18.5 million renovation for a prison that remains unfinished and unused years after the U.S.-funded work began. Among the more outrageous expenditures are U.S. Army contracts with dozens of companies tied to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The reconstruction watchdog recommended that the Army immediately cut business ties to the terrorists but the deals continued. Another big waste reported by Judicial Watch a few years ago, involves a $65 million initiative to help Afghan women escape repression. The government admits that, because there’s no accountability, record-keeping or follow-up, it has no clue if the program was effective.
Back in 2013 Judicial Watch reported that, despite multiple warnings of fraud and corruption inside the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, the U.S. keeps sending hundreds of millions of dollars to support the Islamic republic’s scandal-plagued healthcare system. In that infuriating case, the money—$236 million over nine years—flowed through the scandal-plagued U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is charged with providing economic, development and humanitarian assistance worldwide. It was supposed to fund prenatal care for women, hospitals, physicians’ salaries and other medical costs. Instead, a federal audit found pervasive, waste, fraud and abuse that warranted an immediate cutoff of U.S. assistance. In a scathing report SIGAR called it a reckless disregard toward the management of U.S. taxpayer dollars.