The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

U.S. spent $500,000 on Afghan training center that was ‘melting,’ watchdog finds

The U.S. spent $500,000 to build a training building for Afghan Forces that quickly fell apart. Photo courtesy of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Shortly after the U.S. spent nearly half a million dollars to build a training center for Afghan forces, the adobe-style brick buildings began to crumble, literally “melting” away, according to a new watchdog report released Thursday.

The center’s disintegration was caused by poor construction by the contractor, an Afghan construction firm, which used substandard materials and faulty construction practices. But John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said the project also “was plagued by poor government oversight throughout all phases of the contract.”

The U.S. contracting office responsible “accepted work that did not fulfill the requirements of the contract, and then failed to hold the contractor fully accountable,” the report said.

As the facility, located in Wardak province, continued to fall apart, Afghan authorities decided to demolish it and are rebuilding it with money from the Afghan Ministry of the Interior. The Inspector General said it was “not only an embarrassment but, more significantly, a waste of U.S. taxpayers’ money.”

The IG also found that even though contracting officials conducted seven on-site inspections in 2012, there was no evidence of the deficiencies in any of their reports. But a few months later, a U.S. official visiting the facility noticed the damage and reported it to the contracting office, and one analyst determined that it was “completely unsafe” and another official recommended that it be torn down and rebuilt.

The contractor, however, did limited repairs to the building, including re-plastering some surfaces, but the additional work “did not fully address the deficiencies,” the report said. Contracting officials “could not explain the decision to pursue only a partial repair of the facility,” the report said.

In a response included in the report, the U.S. Central Command’s Joint Theater Support Contracting Command said it would investigate why the structure wasn’t built to the contract’s requirements and whether disciplinary action should be taken against the contracting officials involved.

The report is one of many accusing the U.S. of squandering billions during the war. Earlier this month, it said that the Pentagon spent $57.1 million on a Afghan military base that is plagued with faulty generators and a dining facility that is drastically overcrowded.