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The Afghan Plan: Where Dakota Writes About the Eradication of Hope in a Thousand Cuts

Photo from USIP

From The Afghan Plan (used with permission):

We swung by the Provincial Council last week. The Council is the only democratically-elected institution in the province, and every single other person in the provincial administration — the Governor, the Provincial Ministers of Education and Health and Finance and Economy and everything else, all the way down to the District Sub-Governors — are chosen by Kabul.

The equivalent of this system would be if the Governor of, say, Texas, were chosen by the President of the United States instead of by the people of Texas. The President or someone else in Washington would also get to choose all of the State’s Gubernatorial cabinet-type positions covering everything functional within the State — tax collection, school administration, road construction and maintenance, policing and law enforcement, judicial implementation including the penal system, the whole shebang. Washington’s influence in this hypothetical extends all the way to the county level, with county administrators chosen by Washington, albeit with some consultation from the Governor.

In this hypothetical, if the good people of Texas do not like their Governor or one of their administrators, they have no means of getting rid of him. “Can you imagine if we tried that in the States?” I asked my language training classmates. “There would be riots,” one responded.

And yet, this is the arrangement written into the Constitution of Afghanistan.
“We don’t get a budget,” the Provincial Council president told me. “Kabul doesn’t give us anything. You need to give us fuel so we can work.”
(“Who on EARTH designed this system?” I asked the Embassy budgeting and finance specialist, a plucky woman from the Department of Treasury who had once written Arkansas’s State budget. “It’s not QUITE as bad as it seems,” she said optimistically. “Well, kind of, at least”).
Getting the Afghan Government to function as it should, with money flowing from the appropriate places to fulfill existing budget gaps, is one of the primary goals of the PRT. The act of connecting the budget people in Kabul, who should ostensibly have money for the Provincial Council, with the Council themselves is an act in Making Bureaucracy Function. But getting money from Kabul is a long and annoying process, and the PRT is seen as a gigantic, camouflage-swathed ATM. It feels like we’ve had this discussion in almost every meeting I have ever attended.
We’ve been through this, a thousand times with a thousand different people. It just seemed so hopeless.

Continue reading, It’s just not working.

Coming Soon to the Grievance Board Near You

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) Semiannual Report to the Congress for the Department of State (Department) and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) recently went online. This most recent report covers the period ending March 31, 2011.

The report includes a summary of inspections, audits, and investigations conducted by the OIG including the following:

False Claims

OIG conducted an investigation of two Department employees who submitted false travel claims for reimbursement of official travel. The two employees shared a hotel room and taxi fare while on official travel, but each submitted a separate claim for the full cost of the hotel room and the taxi fare. The total amount of the false claim made by the two employees was approximately $1,500. On October 22, 2010, the Bureau of Human Resources (HR) notified OIG that it was proposing to suspend both employees without pay for 26 days. (C2010-040 & C2010-041)

Employee Misconduct

OIG conducted an investigation of a Department employee who was falsifying her time and attendance records and engaging in unauthorized outside employment. The investigation determined that the employee had been doing work for her outside employer on her government computer. On October 4, 2010, HR notified the employee that she was being suspended for 45 days without pay. (C2008-090)

OIG conducted an investigation of a Department employee who, as the chairman of an awards committee, intervened in the process to get two performance awards approved for himself and his wife, who was also a Department employee. The approval was made without the knowledge of the other committee members. On October 29, 2010, HR proposed a 3-day suspension for the employee. (C2010-023)

The following already went past the grievance process:

False Statements

OIG investigated a Department employee who provided false statements during a prior subject interview conducted by OIG and DS special agents in January 2006. The investigation concerned the employee’s acceptance of money and other gifts in exchange for the issuance of visas while he was a consular officer assigned to an embassy. On November 23, 2010, the employee pleaded guilty to providing a materi­ally false statement to law enforcement officers concerning his fraudulent issuance of visas. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice, Public Integrity Section, through the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. On February 11, 2011, the former employee was sentenced to 1 year supervised probation, $1000 fine (to be paid immediately), and a $100 special assessment. (C2010-077)

Wire Fraud Conspiracy

OIG conducted a joint investigation, with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, of a Department employee assigned to Iraq who solicited bribes and kickbacks from vendors in exchange for the award of Department contracts. The investigation determined that the employee accepted a large number of payments from a company that was awarded a Department contract and that the contract was inflated in cost by the amount received by the subject. The subject was arrested and agreed to plead guilty in to one count of Wire Fraud Conspiracy, and to pay $106,800 in restitution.

Source: The Office of Inspector General (OIG) Semiannual Report to the Congress (ending March 31, 2011)

Snapshot: Top 10 State Department Contractors FY2010

According to the Prime Award spending data from USAspending.gov, the State Department had 81,323 transactions in the amount of $10,949,985,424 in FY2010 (October 1, 2009-September 30, 2010). Below are the Top 10 Contractors at State.

Screen capture from