US lawmakers shocked at Pakistan getting $ 5.6 bn without oversight

June 25th, 2008 - 1:04 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 25 (IANS) A key US lawmaker has expressed shock at a government audit report showing a “troubling lack of oversight and accountability” for US funds to Pakistan meant to combat terrorism along its border with Afghanistan. The US has provided Pakistan about $5.6 billion in payments, known as Coalition Support Funds (CSF), since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America.

“I’m shocked at the lack of oversight of billions of dollars that have been doled out in Pakistan in an effort to fight terrorism,” said Howard L. Berman, chairman of House Committee on Foreign Affairs on the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report Tuesday.

In its investigation, the GAO found several cases where the Bush Administration could not explain or account for such payments, including millions of dollars for road construction with no evidence that any roads were built, and reimbursement costs to the Pakistan military that may be duplicative.

“The report documents how US funds were used without any evidence that they supported counter-terrorism efforts,” Berman noted.

“The US government is being asked to reimburse Pakistan for non-incremental air defence radar maintenance when Al Qaeda is not even known to have an air force. The purpose of these funds is to support the fight against extremists, not to boost Pakistan’s conventional warfare capability.”

In early May, the Foreign Affairs Committee examined some of the conclusions of an earlier GAO report it had commissioned on US-Pakistan policy. It then asked GAO to undertake the investigation into CSF.

Berman said Tuesday his committee will continue to follow the matter closely to ensure that the Administration puts in place improved systems of accountability for funding to Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts.

The US Defence Department provides CSF to 27 coalition partners for costs incurred in direct support of US military operations. Pakistan is the largest recipient of CSF, receiving 81 percent of CSF reimbursements as of May 2008, the report noted.

GAO recommended that Defence Department consistently implement existing oversight criteria, formalise oversight responsibilities of the Office of the Defence Representative to Pakistan, and implement additional controls.

Defence Department generally concurred with the recommendations but stated that the report lacked sufficient context, such as Pakistan’s military contributions enabled by CSF and Defence’s broad legal authority to dispense funds, the report said.

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