November 3, 2015

Your Tax Dollars at Work: $43M for Afghan Gas Station

Somebody’s got a sweetheart deal.

The Pentagon cannot account for some $43 million that it spent trying to get a compressed natural gas (CNG) station built in the Afghan city of Sheberghan. On Oct. 22, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) wrote to the Pentagon blasting it for the waste in building the facility that was originally going to cost $3 million, according to the original construction contract. For comparison, a similar CNG station was built in Pakistan for $500,000 — a sixth of the original estimate in Afghanistan. And why even build the thing in the first place? The average salary for an Afghani is $690 a year, SIGAR reported, while the cost to convert a gasoline-powered car to CNG is $800.

VICE News tried to follow the money because the Department of Defense couldn’t give the information. And while it was too dangerous for VICE to travel to the CNG station, it was able to find that the Pentagon contracted Central Asian Engineering to build the most expensive gas station in the world. After the station was completed in May 2014, it was transferred to Qashqari Oil and Gas Services, a company that the Afghan government has no record of. When VICE called the gas station, the man who answered the phone said the station was now operated by the Afghan Gas Company. Regional Outreach Director for Transparency International Rukshana Nanayakkara said anywhere from 50% to 90% of the money was probably diverted to bribes, just like the rest of the foreign aid the country receives. Somebody’s got a sweetheart deal, all while Obama’s playing politics with his veto of the Defense budget.

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