The U.S. Agency for International Development doesn’t have the right location data for several public health facilities it funds in the far northeastern part of Afghanistan — which could hamper oversight efforts, according to a letter from a government watchdog.
The inaccuracies are “substantial,” said the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which conducted the review: Out of 29 health facilities in the Badakhshan province that were evaluated, 12 were more than 10 kilometers (a little more than 6 miles) from USAID-provided coordinates. One of the 12 facilities was more than 700 kilometers away.
And when SIGAR mapped the 79 facilities that USAID said were in the province, 22 had GPS coordinates placing them in different districts. Five of the health facilities were not even in Afghanistan, according to the coordinates.
This isn’t the first time SIGAR has voiced concerns about USAID’s oversight duties.
In the letter, John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said the office has been concerned with oversight of the facilities since 2014.
“In recent months, we have issued multiple letters calling into question the accuracy of the geospatial coordinates,” Sopko wrote.
USAID’s response was that the Afghan Ministry of Public Health was trying to get more accurate data. But when SIGAR requested the data, “an agency official stated that USAID no longer maintained such data and that obtaining it would require a specialized request to the Afghan government, which USAID was unwilling to make.”
In the future, USAID officials said that the agency does not intend to maintain the coordinates for the facilities and that program changes mean location data is no longer their responsibility, according to the letter.
“USAID’s current position regarding its monitoring responsibilities is troubling,” Sopko wrote.
The report also said about one-third of the 29 facilities reviewed did not have running water. Some of the facilities also didn’t have electricity, or enough power for good lighting or refrigerating vaccines.
All 29 facilities “appeared to be open and in use,” according to the report. At each location, auditors spoke to a community member who used the facility, and 28 out of 29 said the facility was “very useful.” Only one said it was “somewhat useful.”
The facilities were funded until June 2015 through USAID’s $259.6 million Partnership Contracts for Health program, where the U.S. government gave money directly to the Afghan government. Now USAID contributes funds through a World Bank-administered program. USAID is expected to contribute about $228 million through the program.
Funding the program through the World Bank means USAID relies on the World Bank’s systems to “provide adequate oversight,” a USAID official told SIGAR in a February email.
“As a program support donor, we are not in a position, nor do we desire to make the location of individual facilities our concern,” the official added.
But SIGAR said USAID is still responsible for accurate data.
“USAID should take steps to ensure that its funds are used as intended,” Sopko said. “That means, in part, ensuring that the correct populations are receiving intended health care services through the use of accurate GPS data.”