Ridiculously overbudget? Check. Unnecessary? Check. Impossible to support in the long run? Check. Zero accountability? Check and double-check. If a novelist wrote this as a satire of government operations, there wouldn’t be an editor who’d buy it — not for 43 cents, andcertainly not for $43 million:
Nearly $43 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money was spent on building a gas station in Afghanistan — 140 times more than it should have cost, according to a government watchdog.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) also said that one of the most “troubling” issues is how the Department of Defense was unable or unwilling to explain why the “ill-conceived” project was so expensive.
“Even considering security costs associated with construction and operation in Afghanistan, this level of expenditure appears gratuitous and extreme,”SIGAR said in a report issued Monday. …
“It’s an outrageous waste of money that raises suspicions that there is something more there than just stupidity,” John Sopko, the special inspector general, told NBC News. “There may be fraud. There may be corruption. But I cannot currently find out more about this because of the lack of cooperation.”
Stupidity hardly covers it. I’ve worked on capital projects that ran over budget because of errors, but we’re talking in the 5% range. A 10% overrun in the private sector will get you noticed in all the wrong ways, and anything over that will likely get you fired. This is an overrun of, oh, 14,000%.
And because this is truly a government operation, no one knows anything about it. IG John Sopko went looking for answers, and came up empty — because the project office has already been closed down:
One of the most troubling aspects of this project is that the Department of Defense claims that it is unable to provide an explanation for the high cost of the project or to answer any other questions concerning its planning, implementation, or outcome. In fact, in response to my request for information, the Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Policy stated in June 2015 that the March 2015 closure of TFBSO resulted in the Office of the Secretary “no longer possessing the personnel expertise to address these questions or to assess properly the TFBSO information and documentation retained by WHS in the OSD Executive Archive” (see Appendix I).
In written comments on a draft of this report, the Principal Under Secretary of Defense for Policy did not dispute our facts or findings, or provide any new information. Instead, his comments reiterated his earlier position that because TFBSO closed in March 2015, the Department no longer has the expertise to answer any of SIGAR’s questions about this project or about any other TFBSO activities (see Appendix II).
Frankly, I find it both shocking and incredible that DOD asserts that it no longer has any knowledge about TFBSO, an $800 million program that reported directly to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and only shut down a little over six months ago.
Even more stupidly, the DoD built this as a compressed natural gas refueling station for commercial and personal vehicles. Afghanistan has a mostly untapped wealth of natural gas, and the US wants to push the clean-burning fuel rather than petroleum-based fuel. That sounds great, except that Afghanistan doesn’t have a wealth of CNG-fueled vehicles, nor much wealth for Afghans to either convert their vehicles or buy new vehicles to replace them.
As Sopko discovered, no one apparently thought to look into that problem before sinking $43 million into the gas station:
Reminds me of the story, some years ago, about the Forest Service potty.
The potty was an outhouse, with two stalls.
The construction cost was over one million dollars.
Money to burn!
What a country!