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U.S.-funded facilities barely working in Afghan camp

Washington Examiner January 8, 2015 

A U.S.-funded power plant and fueling station at an Afghan military complex in Kabul were barely functioning nearly two years after contractors finished building them, a watchdog report said. 
Another U.S.-backed project, a dining hall for soldiers at the Afghan National Army’s Camp Commando, was serving more than five times the number of people it was built to handle. 
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction encountered difficulty in inspecting the three facilities due to lost records that would have shown when they were tested and commissioned in its report on the camp. 
Together, the power plant, fueling station and dining hall cost $18.7 million after multiple contract modifications by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 
The $7 million power plant had four main generators, with a fifth meant to serve as a back-up. All four were supposed to be able to run at once to handle peak power demands, but inspectors discovered only one of the generators could operate at a time because the equipment wasn’t functioning properly, SIGAR said. 
The generators provided only a quarter of the power the plant was expected to produce, the report said. 
Switching from one generator to another had to be done manually because it was impossible to do so electronically, causing power interruptions across the special forces compound, the report said. 
To compensate for power shortages in important areas, Afghan soldiers had set up 19 “spot” generators around the camp, some of which had fallen into disrepair, SIGAR said. USACE pointed to the Afghans as the cause of the failures, claiming their soldiers had caused damage to the plant by making an “improper connection” to a transformer, the report said. 
The agency blamed an “electronic data storage failure” for its inability to locate records documenting the dates and times testing of the power plant occurred. The USACE later paid contractors $2.1 million to fix the power plant, completing repairs nearly two years after the damage occurred, the report said. 
The fuel station was constructed to provide a central location for members of the Afghan National Army to fuel their vehicles. The station was to have tanks that could hold 38,000 liters of diesel and 1,000 liters of motor fuel, as well as pumps where personnel could refuel, the report said. But none of the pumps worked and had never even been tested despite a February 2013 letter from USACE stating all work was finished and all issues had been resolved, the watchdog found. 
“Although this fuel point was never fully operational, the U.S. government has built a second fuel point for the ANA on Camp Commando,” the report said. The second fuel station, which cost nearly three times more at $1 million, has also never been used, the report said. 
Afghan National Army officials claimed the pumps were too close together to accommodate their vehicles and the fueling point was in dangerous proximity to the fire station in violation of building codes. 
SIGAR said its inspectors measured the station and concluded even wide combat vehicles could access the pumps. A review of the International Building Code revealed no provisions that would prevent fuel pumps and a fire station from being located near each other, the report said. “The fact that the fuel pumps at the fuel point are not used is particularly troubling. The ANA has not offered any reasonable explanation for not using the pumps,” the report said. 
Pumps at the $332,000 fuel station were never programmed to actually pump fuel, although USACE stated in December 2014 that the station was “fully operational,” the watchdog found. 
The dining facility, which was built to handle 280 people, was being used by 1,600 Afghan soldiers, the report said. 
SIGAR said its inspection was hampered by the missing records. “Lost records have been a problem at other sites we inspected in Afghanistan and this problem requires corrective action,” the report said. 
In June 2014, lost records indicating how taxpayer-purchased patrol boats would be used by the Afghan National Police and why a $3 million order for them was cancelled hindered SIGAR’s review of the program. 
SIGAR could not determine the construction quality of a Kabul medical clinic in April 2013 because basic project documents such as blueprints were missing. In other cases, records that were lost or even intentionally destroyed kept the watchdog from being able to make definitive rulings.