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U.S. boosts efforts to track aid money in Afghanistan

By Keith B. Richburg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 12, 2010; 3:05 PM

KABUL -- President Obama's special inspector general for Afghanistan said in Kabul on Tuesday that his team is boosting its manpower as U.S. aid money into the country grows -- and along with it the potential for fraud and abuse.

"We are ramping up," retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields said at a briefing for Afghan and foreign journalists at the U.S. Embassy. He said that his team of investigators and auditors will expand to 118 this year and that he has received preliminary White House approval for 132 personnel next year.

"We suspect . . . that there may not necessarily be the capacity to absorb additional funding by the government of Afghanistan," he said.

Fields, who is making his sixth visit to Afghanistan, said his team members are deploying to areas of the country where the highest volume of foreign aid money is being managed. He said that 40 percent of the cases they have been involved in so far deal with procurement and contract fraud, 30 percent with bribery and the remaining 30 percent with theft of funds. He said he has the "full cooperation" of the Afghan government.

Advertising the team's hotline number and Web site address (http://www.sigar.mil) for the public to report corruption, Fields said, "We are interested in finding any individuals who are bilking the government of the United States, the government of Afghanistan, or any government."

"We are out to find you and bring you to justice," he said, addressing miscreants.

The United States has poured about $40 billion in development aid into Afghanistan since 2001 -- half of that security-related -- and the international community has invested an additional $20 billion.

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