Afghanistan Reconstruction:

Despite Some Progress, Deteriorating Security and Other Obstacles Continue to Threaten Achievement of U.S. Goals

GAO-05-742: Published: Jul 28, 2005. Publicly Released: Jul 28, 2005.

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In October 2001, coalition forces forcibly removed the Taliban regime from Afghanistan, responding to their protection of al Qaeda terrorists who attacked the United States. Congress subsequently passed the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act of 2002 authorizing funds to help Afghanistan rebuild a stable, democratic society. The act directed GAO to monitor the implementation of U.S. humanitarian, development, and counternarcotics assistance. This report analyzes, for fiscal year 2004, (1) U.S. obligations and expenditures, (2) progress and results of assistance efforts, (3) assistance management and coordination, and (4) major obstacles that affected the achievement of U.S. goals.

The United States spent $720 million on nonsecurity-related assistance to Afghanistan in fiscal year 2004. Approximately 75 percent paid for reconstruction activities, with the remainder supporting humanitarian and quick-impact projects. Conversely, in 2002-2003, humanitarian and quick-impact assistance accounted for more than three-fourths of U.S. spending. The United States continued to be the largest donor, contributing about 38 percent of the $3.6 billion pledged by the international community. U.S. humanitarian assistance benefited vulnerable populations in fiscal year 2004. Further, the United States increased reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan and made notable progress in several sectors through its "Accelerating Success Initiative". Although progress varied among sectors, the United States did not meet all of its targets due to security and other obstacles. For example, USAID intended to rehabilitate or build 286 schools by the end of 2004. However, owing to poor contractor performance and security problems, by September 2004 it had completed only 8. As in 2002-2003, complete financial information was not readily available, and USAID lacked a comprehensive strategy to direct its efforts. Further, USAID did not consistently require contractors to fulfill contract provisions needed to ensure accountability and oversight. USAID also did not systematically collect information needed to assess the progress of its major projects. Moreover, measures provided by the embassy to decision-makers in Washington did not comprehensively portray progress in each sector or the overall U.S. program. Deteriorating security, increased opium production, and delayed funding continued to obstruct U.S. reconstruction efforts in fiscal year 2004 and threatened the achievement of U.S. goals. Deteriorating security rendered large areas inaccessible to the assistance community, and the continued rise in opium production undermined legitimate economic activity. In addition, most assistance funds were not available until nearly 6 months into the fiscal year, preventing USAID from accelerating reconstruction efforts.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our July 28, 2005 report, Afghanistan Reconstruction: Despite Some Progress, Deteriorating Security and Other Obstacles Continue to Threaten Achievement of U.S. Goals (GAO-05-742), we recommended that the Administrator of USAID establish a performance management plan that complies with USAID directives. USAID concurred with the report's recommendation and indicated that it improved its strategic planning and performance measurement process. Specifically, in May 2005, USAID completed its first long-term country-level strategy for Afghanistan to cover the period from 2005 through 2010. In May 2006, the agency also developed a performance management plan for Afghanistan. Based on our review of the documents and the continuing actions taken by USAID since July 2005, we determined that USAID had taken appropriate steps to support our closing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve on existing efforts to measure and assess the progress of U.S. reconstruction projects toward achieving U.S. policy goals, and to provide a basis for planning future reconstruction projects, the Administrator of USAID should establish a performance management plan that complies with USAID directives.

    Agency Affected: Department of State: Agency for International Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our July 28, 2005 report, Afghanistan Reconstruction: Despite Some Progress, Deteriorating Security and Other Obstacles Continue to Threaten Achievement of U.S. Goals (GAO-05-742), we recommended that the Administrator of USAID clearly stipulate in all future reconstruction contracts that contractors are to develop performance management plans specific to the work they are conducting. USAID concurred with the report's recommendation and indicated that it improved its strategic planning and performance measurement process. As of early 2006, USAID now requires contractors to prepare performance management plans. Based on our review of the documents and the continuing actions taken by USAID since July 2005, we determined that USAID had taken appropriate steps to support our closing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve on existing efforts to measure and assess the progress of U.S. reconstruction projects toward achieving U.S. policy goals, and to provide a basis for planning future reconstruction projects, the Administrator of USAID should clearly stipulate in all future reconstruction contracts that contractors are to develop performance management plans specific to the work they are conducting.

    Agency Affected: Department of State: Agency for International Development

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In our July 28, 2005 report, Afghanistan Reconstruction: Despite Some Progress, Deteriorating Security and Other Obstacles Continue to Threaten Achievement of U.S. Goals (GAO-05-742), we recommended that the Administrator of USAID more completely communicate the performance information obtained from the performance management plans to executive branch decision makers in Kabul and Washington. USAID concurred with the report's recommendation and indicated that it improved its strategic planning and performance measurement process. Specifically, USAID commented that the "F-process"--a joint USAID-State budgeting and planning process--and the information that process gathers through the Foreign Assistance Coordination and Tracking System (FACTS), which the USAID mission in Afghanistan began using in fiscal year 2008, are the best methods for distributing real time information about Afghanistan to decision makers in Washington. Based on our review of the documents and continuing actions taken by USAID since July 2005, we determined that USAID had taken appropriate steps to support our closing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve on existing efforts to measure and assess the progress of U.S. reconstruction projects toward achieving U.S. policy goals, and to provide a basis for planning future reconstruction projects, the Administrator of USAID should more completely communicate the performance information obtained from the performance management plans to executive branch decision makers in Kabul and Washington.

    Agency Affected: Department of State: Agency for International Development

 

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