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Apr-15-2009 16:13printcomments

UN Use of Funds Under Fire Over USA Today Article

The projects were intended to provide jobs on an urgent basis for Afghans, mainly in rural areas. UN 'Disturbed' by Allegations of Abusing U.S. Funding in Afghanistan

Unemployment in Afghanistan
Unemployment in Afghanistan is rampant in many areas, and men like this are a common site along the roadside; many are hoping to find a day's work. Salem-News.com photo by Tim King

(GENEVA) - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said it was troubled by accusations leveled at the agency in the media today of spending millions of dollars of United States funding on allegedly substandard construction work for building projects in Afghanistan.

According to an article in USA Today, a report by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has criticized UNDP for delivering “shoddy work” and diverting money meant for Afghanistan to other countries and then refusing to cooperate with the agency in its inquiries.

Although UNDP has yet to receive an official copy of the report by USAID's Inspector General and has only seen a copy published in the press, Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesperson for UNDP, told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York that the agency is “clearly very disturbed” by the issues it raises.

He said that in 2003, USAID in Afghanistan asked UNDP to take on Quick Impact Projects (QIPs), and asked for the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to serve as the implementing agency.

The projects were intended to provide jobs on an urgent basis for Afghans, mainly in rural areas, Mr. Dujarric noted. “The emphasis was on the rapid creation of employment opportunities as much as on the completion and repair of infrastructure and provision of much needed services to improve the well-being of the local communities in Taliban strongholds.”

The work did not involve new construction projects, but the repair of roads, bridges, wells and clinics, the vast majority of which were completed successfully, according to the UNDP spokesperson.

He underscored that there have already been several meetings at the highest levels of both UNDP and USAID to clarify issues pertaining to a collection bill issued by the US agency for money used in Afghanistan.

“We will be going through the vouchers with USAID to ensure that they are satisfied with the validity of the expenses. Again, any money that remains in dispute after this process will be refunded by UNDP to USAID,” he said.

UNDP expects to return no more than expectation $1.5 million to USAID, and Mr. Dujarric said the agency also recognizes that there had been some lapses in timing and quality of reports back to USAID.

“But we have been working for months to resolve any dispute with UNOPS and USAID, [and] we expect to fully resolve these matters very soon,” he underscored.

“UNDP is as angry as anyone about the reported misbehaviour of UNOPS or any other UN employee in Afghanistan during the period 2003-2006 and we fully support UN action against any individuals involved,” the spokesperson said, highlighting UNDP's commitment to improving the lives of people in Afghanistan and its good and close working relationship the US Government and its agencies, such as USAID.

“To this day,” he added, “the US State Department and USAID have supported UNDP programmes in Afghanistan with contributions close to $336 million over the past seven years with no major disputes or difficulties.”

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