ProPublica's Afghan Waste Data

ProPublica reviewed 235 SIGAR financial audits, special projects, program audits and inspection reports to compile this data set of $17 billion in wasteful spending. Financial audits were excluded from the final data. Of the other reports, only those that had specific monetary figures were used.

ProPublica also asked the military, the State Department, USAID and the United States Army Corps of Engineers for updates to some projects. As a result, some SIGAR reports were removed from the data, such as a teacher training facility that SIGAR had found was poorly built but had been fixed. Some figures were added that came from the government, such as the cost to fix buildings constructed with hazardous materials. There are 77 of these entries.

Based on SIGAR’s conclusions, we identified three main categories for 55 of the projects: waste, unsustainable, and at-risk.

  • Waste: A program, policy, purchase or building that has not fulfilled its purpose or achieved its goals, has involved misspending, or involved spending required as a result of poor decision making.
  • At Risk (On the Brink): A program, policy, purchase or building that is is in danger of becoming waste. Possible reasons: the project is currently unused, won’t be used as intended, underused or it is vulnerable to theft or corruption.
  • Unsustainable (Budget Busters): A program, policy, purchase or building that is beyond the means, capabilities or desires of the Afghan government to operate, maintain or use.

There were 22 additional projects that were on the borderline of those three categories, and could be deemed wasteful from the point of view of the taxpayer. Perhaps the project might have fallen short of goals but is still being utilized by the Afghans or had mixed results. These were categorized as “You Be the Judge.”

ProPublica consulted six experts drawn from academia and government who were well versed in reconstruction in Afghanistan. Their suggestions and criticisms were incorporated into the final data.


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Part of these collections:

G.I. Dough, Afghanistan, and Federal Agencies

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