Virtually No Strings Attached To Military Money For Pakistan, According To New Government Report Unveiled By Menendez And Harkin

Virtually No Strings Attached To Military Money For Pakistan, According To New Government Report Unveiled By Menendez And Harkin

GAO recommends increased oversight and accountability for the billions the U.S. sends to Pakistan to help fight terrorism

Washington - Today, the independent Government Accountability Office released a report showing that while the United States government has been spending billions of dollars to reimburse Pakistan for its military efforts against extremists, in many cases the U.S. has failed to verify the actual use of the funds. (The report is available here: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08806.pdf ) The GAO says that not only are the Department of Defense's oversight measures deficient, but the Pentagon often fails to meet those deficient standards for oversight. U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Tom Harkin (D-IA), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, helped request and unveil this report, which focuses on the $5.56 billion in Coalition Support Funds (CSF) sent to Pakistan since 9/11.

Senator Menendez said: "Apparently, the Bush administration cares so little about the hunt for Osama bin Laden that it is barely paying attention to how the Pakistani military is carrying out the fight. It's dangerous to treat the battle against al Qaeda so casually, and it's unfair to American taxpayers to be so careless with billions of their dollars. As we close in on seven years since 9/11, our number one enemy is operating in a safe zone. It's clear that the effort in Pakistan has failed to meet its goals and that the GAO's recommendations to implement additional accountability measures are well-warranted and long-overdue."

Senator Harkin said: "It seems as though the Pakistani military went on a spending spree with American taxpayers' wallets and no one bothered to investigate the charges. To this day we do not have proper verification for how our money was used. How hard would it have been to confirm that a road we paid $15 million for was ever built? It is appalling that the Defense Department did not send any embassy officials working in Pakistan to verify these enormous costs. The result of their inaction is inexcusable. With the latest national Intelligence Estimate showing that we are no safer today than we were before 9/11, now is the time for the Bush Administration to change course, stop pouring money into a black hole and focus on policies and programs that will keep Americans secure."

Examples of questionable reimbursements to Pakistan include:

• $200 million for Pakistan's air defense radar, even though it was unclear whether this was the type of reimbursement allowed under CSF guidelines,

• $30 million for road construction and $15 million for bunker construction despite a lack of evidence that they had been built, and

• $19,000 per vehicle per month for a fleet of fewer than 20 Pakistani Navy passenger vehicles, which included seemingly duplicate charges.

The GAO's recommendations include:

• Implementing the guidelines already in place to disallow Pakistani claims that lack verification,

• Formally establishing the role of the Office of Defense Representative, Pakistan in the reimbursement process (not until the ODRP become involved 2006 did scrutiny of Pakistani claims seem to increase),

• Working with the Pakistani government to allow the U.S. government greater scrutiny of reimbursement claims, and

• Better evaluating currency exchange rate fluctuations to ensure that the U.S. is not overpaying.

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