USA Today

U.N. spent U.S. funds on shoddy projects
USA Today

Two United Nations agencies spent millions in U.S. money on substandard Afghanistan construction projects, including a central bank without electricity and a bridge at risk of « life threatening » collapse, according to an investigation by U.S. federal agents.

The U.N. ran a « quick impact » infrastructure program from 2003 to 2006 under a $25 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The U.N. delivered shoddy work, diverted money to other countries and then stonewalled U.S. efforts to figure out what happened, according to a report by USAID’s inspector general obtained by USA TODAY under the Freedom of Information Act.

One U.N. employee told investigators that « about $10 million of USAID grant money went to projects in other countries, to include Sudan, Haiti, Sri Lanka and Dubai. » That witness said the Afghanistan country director for the U.N. Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which served as the contractor on the project for the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), spent about $200,000 in U.S. money to renovate his guesthouse. Witness names were withheld by USAID. The development program hired UNOPS to do the work and kept a 7% management fee, the report says.

Investigators found that projects reported as « complete » were actually so shoddily built that they were unusable, the report said. For example, a $375,000 headquarters for Afghanistan’s central bank lacked electricity or plumbing, and basement flooding destroyed stacks of local currency.