The United States continues to pay more than $300 million annually to the Afghan National Police (ANP), and some of that money is going to officers who do not actually exist, according to government officials who warn that fraud and a lack of oversight are causing U.S. taxpayer dollars to be wasted on the force.
The United States continues to pay the salaries of ANP officers despite a lack of supervision over the funds and the fact that fraud is rampant among the force, according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
A U.S. government official familiar with the issue further confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon that American tax dollars are in fact being paid to Afghan police officers who do not actually exist.
The ongoing payments have led SIGAR to warn that "despite 13 years and several billions of dollars in salary assistance to the Afghan government for the ANP, there is still no assurance that personnel and payroll data are accurate," according to its audit.
U.S. officials have confirmed to SIGAR that despite evidence of fraud and mismanagement "they accepted, without question," all personnel totals offered by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior (MOI), which is not subject to independent oversight by the United States.
Over the years, officials have discovered inflated police rosters listing more officers for payments than actually work for the force, payments being made to "more police personnel than are authorized," and some officers receiving inflated salaries, according to SIGAR.
The problems have only grown in recent years and, if not fixed, could become more of an issue for the United States as it fully withdraws from Afghanistan, according to SIGAR’s report, which details widespread problems in the way the Afghan and U.S. governments track the ANP and assign salaries.
"There is a significant risk that a large portion of the more than $300 million in annual U.S. government funding for ANP salaries will be wasted or abused," SIGAR warned.
"As U.S. and coalition forces continue to draw down and transfer security responsibility to the Afghan government by the end of 2014, the U.S. government will have increasingly limited visibility over ANP data collection processes," SIGAR wrote. "As a result, the U.S. government will become even more reliant on the [Afghan Interior Ministry’s] ability to verify the accuracy of the personnel and payroll data it collects."
ANP identification cards, which were created to avoid this exact type of fraud, are being abused, according to SIGAR, which reported that there are "almost twice as many" of these cards in circulation as there are active police officers.
Other mechanisms meant to track the number of ANP personnel also have failed. These include integrated computer systems that are supposed to accurately identify police officers.
"Although all entities involved—the U.S. and Afghan governments as well as the international community—have been working to develop effective ANP personnel and payroll processes, those processes continue to exhibit extensive internal control deficiencies," the audit states.
"The ANP’s process for collecting attendance data, which forms the basis of all ANP personnel and payroll data, has weak controls and limited oversight," SIGAR concluded. "Both systems contain thousands of personnel records with incorrect or missing identification numbers."