By Dan Merica
A U.S. watchdog for Afghanistan reconstruction has made it clear to the Pentagon – it is concerned about the accountability and accuracy of a program that transfers money to the Afghan government for fuel purchases.
Concerns over the $1.1 billion program stem from unaccounted funds as well as reports about the discovery that key financial recovers covering a period of nearly four years were shredded.
In reports to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top Pentagon officials, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said a scheduled budget increase and plans to transfer the program to the Afghan army - both set for next year - should be reconsidered unless major changes are made to improve accountability for fuel purchases, deliveries and consumption.
"We believe these issues warrant immediate attention," John Sopko, the special inspector general for the multi-billion-dollar Afghan reconstruction effort, said.
A major red flag cited by the oversight agency was a discovery that financial records from 2007 to 2011 totaling nearly $475 million had been shredded in violation of military policy.
The inspector general "would like to reiterate the importance of retaining all financial records given the importance of accountability, transparency, and oversight," Sopko said.
He also asked the top military officials to look into why the documents were destroyed and take action.