Many U.S. taxpayers probably know that they’re subsidizing Afghanistan’s government operations and development efforts, but it may surprise them to learn that they’re paying for the war-torn nation to enter the modern era of televised sports coverage.
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko issued a letter to Secretary of State John F. Kerry this month questioning a $3.6 million contract to supply three television-production trucks for Afghan TV networks.
According to the contract, the vehicles are for “live sporting events, such as Buzkashi, Soccer, Cricket and other sports.” Buzkashi is a fierce game in which teams of horse-mounted players compete to haul a stuffed goat skin toward separate goals — sort of like polo, but with a mock carcass instead of a ball.
The TV-production trucks arrived in Afghanistan in July, more than two years behind schedule. But Sopko said none of the vehicles have been placed into service, and one was still covered with shipping material as of last month.
Additionally, two of the trucks cost more than three times the amount listed in the original 2011 contract, which was amended to September 2013.
“If this information is accurate, it suggests that something is seriously wrong with the way this contract was managed,” Sopko said. He added that the State Department should consider canceling the contract if such a move is still possible under the terms of the agreement.
The original contract called for five trucks at a cost of $6 million. It was amended in 2013 to include fewer vehicles.
Sopko asked the State Department to provide all documents related to the department’s contract-modification decision. He also asked the agency to explain the reason for the price increases, why the contractor was not able to meet the delivery schedule, and when the trucks are expected to finally be used.
The State Department negotiated with the inspector general’s office to reply by Nov. 12. The agency did not immediately respond for a request for comment on Friday afternoon.