WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate’s top oversight committee, is demanding answers after a recent report showed that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spent almost $60 million on an electricity transmission project in Afghanistan. The system does not currently operate, not only because of technical issues with the system, but because it was built on privately owned land. In fact, the Corps of Engineers has had to pay an additional $98,000 to prevent the Afghan government from turning the system on, given the safety hazards live power lines would pose to those living beneath them.
“I thought I’d seen everything, but taxpayers spending tens of millions of dollars on a program halfway around the world that didn’t work, then another $98,000 to make sure it didn’t work is a new one,” said McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor. “Most of the rural residents in my state don’t have broadband access, first responders and community organizations don’t have the resources they need to combat the opioid epidemic, I could go on and on—but rather than use $60 million to help solve these or other pressing problems, we spent it doing literally nothing.”
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction issued a report recently detailing the nearly $60 million Corps of Engineers project intended to bring electricity to one million Afghans. While the power lines have been constructed, they were built on privately owned land near homes, making them unsafe to operate. After mistakenly building the lines without a proper connection to the power grid, the Corps of Engineers spent $98,000 to further disable the system, as live transmission lines would endanger Afghans living underneath them. Other issues identified in the report included improperly stored batteries in one of the power substations that could explode, and electrical towers built on deteriorating concrete foundations. McCaskill is demanding answers on what the Corps of Engineers is doing to hold accountable the people who managed the project and what will be done with the project moving forward.
McCaskill has led efforts to eliminate wasteful U.S. government spending overseas since joining the Senate. McCaskill is demanding answers after a report found that six projects in Afghanistan costing almost $400 million are at risk of failure. She also called for answers after a report showed that the State Department routinely paid a contractor to oversee foreign assistance programs in Iraq without properly verifying the contractor’s claimed costs and expenses. During her first term in the Senate, McCaskill waged a successful six-year battle to rein in wasteful wartime contracting practices in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Read McCaskill’s letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HERE.