KABUL — Nearly 12 years after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. government still lacks proper safeguards to ensure that taxpayer dollars do not end up in the hands of insurgents and terrorists, according to a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

While the report, released Wednesday, did not uncover examples of public monies going to terrorist or insurgent groups, it did find that U.S. government agencies have insufficient authority to stop working with companies deemed to be funding America’s enemies.

Section 841 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 allows the Department of Defense to terminate contracts it determines would provide funding, directly or indirectly, to anyone actively supporting the insurgency or otherwise opposed to coalition forces. But the section does not extend the same authority to the State Department or the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which together awarded roughly $3 billion in contracts in fiscal 2012, according to the report.

Further, being designated a company that does business with insurgents or terrorists does not automatically disqualify it from getting State Department or USAID contracts. If either terminated a contract because of such a designation, they would likely have to pay the full cost of the contract — money that could, in turn, be used to support enemies of the U.S., according to the report.

The inspector general’s report recommended that Congress revamp the section on contracting with the enemy to apply to all government entities. This authority is especially crucial in Afghanistan due to the “numerous and unique challenges” of contracting in the country, according to the report.

“These challenges include the limited availability of staff to oversee contracts, the small pool of qualified local contractors, and an insecure and corrupt environment that increases the risk of U.S. funds being used to finance terrorist or insurgent groups,” it said.

Both USAID and the State Department said their efforts to prevent funds being diverted to terrorists had not been hindered by lack of authority to terminate contracts without pay in the face of evidence that a contractor was working with enemies, according to the report. Both agencies told the Inspector General’s office that pre-vetting of potential contractors was effective in preventing taxpayer money from ending up in the wrong hands and that expanding their authority to terminate contracts is unnecessary.

The findings were part of a flurry of reports released by the inspector general’s office in recent weeks, highlighting widespread waste and lack of oversight in U.S. government contracting in Afghanistan. Another report released Wednesday detailed shoddy construction of a school in Kabul province worth roughly $263,000 that could potentially put hundreds of students and faculty in danger and was done in violation of the terms of a U.S.-funded contract.

druzin.heath@stripes.comTwitter: @Druzin_Stripes

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