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State Department rapped for poor oversight of Afghan justice program

WASHINGTON — The United States has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to shore up the Afghan justice sector, but it’s hard to say how much good it’s done because of insufficient program management and oversight, according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The report looked at the State Department’s Justice Sector Support Program, which aims to train justice officials around the country and develop a case management system. The department has spent at least $223 million on such projects since 2005, the report said.

Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction John Sopko found that the State Department had limited ability to assess the performance of the contractor in charge of the program, PAE Incorporated.

Among other issues, he also reported that the department did not define what it meant by a “robust” and “sustainable” case management system for the country.

According to Sopko’s report, the contractor was originally required to established a judicial case management system for the entire country by May 2012. When the system was set up in only 7 of 34 provinces, the contract was modified to require the roll-out in only 7 provinces.

Among his recommendations, Sopko said future Justice Sector Support Program contracts include detailed explanations of requirements that contractors will be held accountable for.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who asked Sopko to look into the Justice Sector Support Program in early 2013, said the review showed that hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money were put at risk by unrealistic goals, flawed program implementation and a lack of performance oversight.

“When you have contractors utterly failing to meet goals, and then going back retroactively and changing those goals to make it seem like they succeeded, you’ve got a major problem,” said McCaskill, who heads the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. “Unfortunately, waste, fraud, and abuse has too often been the result when it comes to the billions we’ve spent in Afghanistan, and the State Department needs to take action immediately to implement safeguards over these contracts.”

Carroll.chris@stripes.com
Twitter: @ChrisCarroll_
 

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