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Bad contracting may have turned deadly in counter-IED program

Stars and Stripes:

[P]oor contract oversight, cited in several reports by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, has not only wasted money in Afghanistan; in one case, it may have led to the deaths of U.S. troops, according to the latest report.

The report released on Tuesday detailed fraud and negligence in the installation of grates to block insurgents from placing bombs in culverts running under roads.

“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,” it said.

At least two of the Afghan contractors investigated — who had contracts worth nearly $1 million — billed the U.S. government for the installation of 250 such grates that were either never installed or were installed incorrectly. One Afghan contractor and his sub-contractor have been arrested in connection with the report and charged with negligent homicide and fraud, and investigators are pushing for the arrest of another contractor, the report said. ....

Despite advances in armored vehicles and personal body armor, roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs), remain the biggest killer of troops in Afghanistan. The number of bomb attacks has been rising in recent years. ...

“There is insufficient evidence to show that culvert denial systems paid for with U.S. government funds were ever installed or, if they were, that the systems were installed properly,” it said.

The inspector general was unable to quantify exactly how much the U.S. government has spent on so-called culvert denial projects but found at least $32 million in related contracts, according the report.

Among the recommendations included in the report are that documentation of the work be reviewed by technical experts to ensure quality control; that checks are made to ensure the required culvert work has been done before contractors are paid; and that the locations of grates are recorded after they are installed.

That's either complete demoralization of the US officials running the contracts, or corruption, or both. The Afghanis are not the story here.