Report: Contract waste and fraud in Afghanistan put troops at risk
Culvert Denial System
July 23rd, 2013
05:16 PM ET

Report: Contract waste and fraud in Afghanistan put troops at risk

By Larry Shaughnessy

Contract fraud and waste has been an ongoing problem in Afghanistan almost since the start of the war, but a new report finds one kind of contract screw-up could well have caused deaths and injuries among U.S. troops.

The problem revolves around “culvert denial systems.” Essentially they are grates made of heavy steel rods that keep the Taliban from putting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in culverts under roads traveled by U.S. military vehicles.

A report released on Tuesday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that “at least two Afghan contractors in one Afghanistan province have committed fraud by billing the U.S. government for the installation of 250 culvert denial systems that were either never installed or incorrectly installed.”

In November 2008, CNN personnel, while on patrol with an American convoy, saw how American troops dealt with the problem on roads with no culvert denial systems.

The convoy was traveling to a small village only accessible by dirt roads. Every time it approached a culvert, all the vehicles stopped.

A young lieutenant and a sergeant got out of the lead vehicles and walked about 50 yards up the ditch. When they reached the culvert, they’d get on their knees and they’d look for anything suspicious in the culvert.

Nearly 50 American troops waited in stopped vehicles out in the open.

No IEDs were found that day in the culverts, but the lieutenant told CNN that the Taliban had already learned to place them down the road, so they could blow up the vehicles while culverts were being checked.

The solution to that problem was supposed to be culvert denial systems. The convoys could keep moving, assured that no IEDs were in the culverts. But the reality is the roads are still very dangerous and IED attacks have risen to 17,000 last year, an all-time high.

Because several different agencies awarded contracts for culvert denial systems and each used different criteria and even different names for the systems, the SIGAR was “unable to determine the total number of contracts awarded for” culvert denial systems, nor was it able to determine how much the U.S. spent on the systems.

The bottom line of the SIGAR report is that there are a lot of questions and not a lot of answers.
“There is insufficient evidence to show that culvert denial systems paid for with U.S. government funds were ever installed,” the report said.

More importantly, it’s unclear how many U.S. troops, if any, were killed by IEDs that should have been prevented by the systems, but the SIGAR office is still working to assess that.

“The ongoing investigation is looking into whether this apparent failure to perform may have been a factor in the death or injury of several U.S. soldiers,” the report said.

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. dumbndumber

    If you have direct knowledge of how gov. contracts work...don't post BS about no-one ever checks the performance in regard to contracts overseas. One of the biggest problems is short timers in teh contracting business...ie someone on the ground for only a year or two...no matter if thats a us solider or us civilian or us contractor. Another issue is that it would appear that some 9of the players are very loose with teh process and rules relates to actiually being a contracting officer...etc

    I would agree that incredible waste is a problem....its not like there is zero inspection, Big flaws in how contracts are managed and the whole process in places like Afghanistan and Iraq....Big problems in the entire process from the people who decide contracts staff will work 7 days a week for crazy hours to inspection to political influence to simply throwing dollars at a problem that money can't solve...

    Go back to Iraq and Afghanistan in about 2 years from now and see what infrastructure that the US has funded is even still functional and in good repair....

    July 25, 2013 at 1:20 am | Reply
  2. RQ

    Isn't there anybody in charge over there?

    July 24, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Reply
  3. George Patton

    I like that new prison cells, build some more.

    July 24, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Reply
  4. SolarMoon

    No doubt the Tooth Fairy was to blame.

    July 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  5. bob

    Yeah, let's just privatize EVERYTHING...... surely soldiers won't be electrocuted in the showers, right?

    Oh, that's happened?

    July 24, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  6. lolo

    This is the problem, outsourcing and no one checks. Time to blame the greedy coporations and our politicians who assist them in committing fraud. It is all about the mighty dollar.

    July 24, 2013 at 11:09 am | Reply
  7. paul

    That was my job to check we did not get cheated. I could double my pay to do these audits, but usually you went in with an armed escort. I did the audits for Central and South America.

    July 24, 2013 at 9:58 am | Reply
  8. It's a good thing

    It's a good thing that we "outsource" all the waste and fraud to contractors as we all know that the "private" sector can do a much better job at waste and fraud.

    July 24, 2013 at 9:33 am | Reply
  9. usrnm

    Too bad the powers that be in Afghanistan didn't listen when they were being told some years ago that this system was inadequate.

    July 24, 2013 at 9:28 am | Reply
  10. StanCaif

    This is a surprise?! Our government issues many contracts (mainly to large US corporations) to perform tasks in hostile territory. Who ever checks to see if the contract obligations are met? NO ONE! Remember our troups who where elecrotroted in showers wired by contract American companies?? Their "excuse" was that the wiring was done to local standards! What a joke! Local standards only require that wires are twisted together to conduct current. No GFI breakers, probabaly no circuit breakers at all! Who ever (from the US) ever bothered to inspect this contractor's work? Contracts to provide safety and security to our troops require inspection by US agencies, not the local Taliban chiefs! Be sure we paid a lot of money for Amerian companies to do little or nothing and still get paid!
    These same contractors must be salivating over the opportunities today in Syria! Who is going to rebuild Syria when they are finished with destroying their whole country? Of course, the USA and our wonderful no-bid contractors! What will they really do? Nothing more than necessary to claim their money!

    July 23, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Reply
    • John Doe

      Large U.S. corporations are not to blame for this screw up. It is the senior military leadership that makes the decisions on what we need in Afghanistan. If you actually read the article you would see that this contract was given to "Afghan" contractors, not U.S. contractors. There is no system of checks and balances. They just throw money at the first guy to show up on base wearing a shirt and tie. He gets the money, laughs all the way to the bank, and subcontracts the project to someone who also subcontracts the project. By the time it gets to the person who is supposed to do it there is not enough money to even complete the project and everyone above that person has basically taken a huge cut of the money. In Afghanistan this type of corruption is normal and they consider it a necessary business function. In conclusion, don't go pointing the finger at U.S. contractors when you didn't even read the article and cleary don't have all the facts.

      July 25, 2013 at 12:21 am | Reply

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