According to a report from John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), American taxpayers have inadvertently contributed $43 million to a gas station in the Middle East.
Built as part of reconstruction efforts in war-torn Afghanistan, the gas station was ostensibly meant to help jumpstart a move toward compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of imported petroleum—theoretically a good move for Afghanistan, which is known to have large amounts of natural gas.
However, further SIGAR research revealed that no preliminary work was done to determine if compressed natural gas was a viable energy option right now in the country. Converting Afghani vehicles will cost about $700, which is about equivalent to the annual income of most locals. This is in addition to the astronomical cost of the station itself.
“To date, DOD has been unable to provide documentation showing why the Sheberghan CNG station cost nearly $43 million,” the report said. “Even considering security costs associated with construction and operation in Afghanistan, this level of expenditure appears gratuitous and extreme.”
CNG stations can be significant investments, of course, but neighboring Pakistan is able to build one for roughly $500,000, leading SIGAR and other government officials to question why a CNG station in Afghanistan should cost so much more.
The DOD has provided no response beyond pointing out that the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), the organization overseeing the build, was closed in March 2015. The DOD has no further information.
Sopko wrote that he found 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.”
The SIGAR investigation into the matter will continue as the government watchdog organization tries to determine whether or not criminal activities occurred.