WASHINGTON, November 2, 2015– According to a top government watchdog, the United States Department of Defense (DOD) spent $43 million to build a single gas station in Afghanistan that should have cost about $500,000. The top oversight team analyzing U.S. spending in Afghanistan reportedly discovered the amount as part of a larger investigation into allegations of criminal activity within the DOD’s premiere program to kick-start the Afghan economy.
“I have never in my lifetime seen the Department of Defense or any government agency clam up and claim they don’t know anything about a program,” said special inspector general John Sopko, a former federal prosecutor appointed by President Obama in 2012 to keep watch over spending in Afghanistan.
Sopko wants to know who approved the funding and why, but no one appears to want to speak up within the federal government.
“Who’s in charge? Why won’t they talk?” asked Sopko. “We have received more allegations about this program than we have received about any other program in Afghanistan.”
At the center of the controversy is the Task Force for Stability and Business Operations (TFBSO). Although the task force ended in March 2015, the damage has already been done. According to Sopko, the DOD’s failure to answer questions about the $800 million program, as well as its claim the task force’s employees no longer work for the DOD, is of major concern.
In an Oct. 22 letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Sopko asked why no one at the DOD could speak about the $800 million TFBSO program, which had reported directly to Carter.
“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,” Sopko wrote. “Nevertheless, I intend to continue our inquiry.”
While the DOD maintains no one knows anything, Joseph Catalino, the former head of the TFBSO, is still employed by the Defense Department in a senior role.
“There’s few things in this job that literally make my jaw drop,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a statement to Fox News, “but of all the examples of wasteful projects in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Pentagon began prior to our wartime contracting reforms, this genuinely shocked me.”