Afghanistan’s $3.6 billion police problem: Broken systems and corruption
Since then it has spent over $3.6 billion dollars on police salaries and payroll costs, with U.S. taxpayers paying $1.3 billion of that tally. The U.S. will continue to spend $300 million annually on ANP salaries while U.S. forces reduce their presence on the ground. It’s part of the ongoing U.S. commitment to Afghanistan’s security.
But those payments will continue without any guarantees the money is going where it’s supposed to, a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction [SIGAR] has found.
After nine years focusing on building a payroll system that works, SIGAR says the two main electronic systems used for payroll data are not fully functional and cannot even communicate with each other.
“There is no documentation that unit commanders are accurately reporting subordinate personnel attendance,” SIGAR noted. “All these factors could result in personnel being paid for days not worked, either with or without the knowledge of supervisory personnel.”
Identification cards, meant to be the bridge between the two systems, are incorrect or not being used on a daily basis to record officer attendance. Additionally, there are almost twice as many ANP ID cards in circulation as there are active police officers, SIGAR says. Police officers who leave the force are not made to hand in their ID cards. The failure to collect the ID cards exposes the ANP to corruption as well as security threats, the watchdog said. Further, there are dozens of police officers who have yet to receive their ID cards.
Nearly 20 percent of the ANP were at risk of not getting their full salaries because they are paid in cash by agents appointed by the Afghan Interior Ministry. There is limited oversight of these agents, SIGAR says, and risk of corruption. The international military force command says that corruption by these agents “could take as much as 50 [percent] of a policeman’s salary.”
None of the three authorities — the Combined Security Transition Command for Afghanistan (CSTC-A), the Afghan Interior Ministry (MOI), or the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) — have verified the payroll processes. Consequently, there are no accurate numbers of how many police officers there are and whether they are the same people receiving the U.S. money. “UNDP’s independent monitoring agent may have artificially inflated the percentage of successfully verified ANP personnel from 59 percent to as much as 84 percent,” SIGAR noted.