SIGAR cites woes at Afghan Air Force University
By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 4, 2016
KABUL, Afghanistan — Failure to maintain buildings of Afghan Air Force University, which the United States spent nearly $7 million to build and renovate, could affect the future use of the facility, according to a U.S. government watchdog report released March 28.
The university was re-established in 2013 to house and train 1,200 air force cadets. Strengthening the air force is seen as crucial to helping the Afghan military fight insurgents and maintain stability, which has been severely challenged since coalition forces transitioned from combat operations to a train-advise-and-assist mission at the beginning of 2015.
In the report, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction said most of the work complied with contract specifications; however, some instances of contractor noncompliance and poor workmanship were found. In some instances, SIGAR found substitute building materials were used without proper approval, “resulting in at least $80,000 in potentially inappropriate cost savings” for the construction company.
An on-site inspection “found that some bathroom buildings were only being partially used due to broken sinks, faucets, and water heaters. In addition, two of the renovated barracks buildings were not being used due to multiple problems, such as plumbing leaks and broken ceiling fans,” SIGAR said. The report documented other building problems, which could be mostly attributed to inadequate maintenance by the Afghan government, including mold growth, filthy bathrooms, broken door locks and broken or missing plumbing fixtures.
“If maintenance does not improve, conditions will worsen and could affect not only the future use of the facility but also cadet morale, and could ultimately result in the waste of the funds spent on the project,” it said.
Furthermore, inspectors found, that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to conduct required warranty inspections and missed the opportunity to correct problems. The contractor’s warranty for eight of the academy’s buildings transferred has expired.
“If the contractor can no longer be held liable for repairing items, someone else — the U.S. Government or the Afghan government — will have to pay for them,” said SIGAR.
In the report, SIGAR called on the Corps of Engineers to correct issues of noncompliance with the contract and poor workmanship, to review the circumstances surrounding the failure to conduct warranty inspections and to pursue all options to recoup an estimated $65,000 in charges associated with the lower-cost materials that Technologists Inc. used without approval.
In response to the SIGAR report, Corps of Engineers officials said they will pursue all options to have Technologists correct issues involving noncompliance with the contract and poor workmanship. The Corps agreed with some points of the SIGAR reports while disagreeing with other issues raised.