Watchdog Group Uncovers Corruption and Scandal in State Department’s Afghan Prison Construction


A government watchdog report has found serious corruption and scandal in the renovation of Afghanistan’s largest prison, resulting in millions of dollars of waste and the conviction of a State Department employee.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) discovered that the Al-Watan Construction Company (AWCC) received a $16.1 million dollar contract from the State Department in 2009 for renovations on Pol-i-Charki, the Afghanistan prison built in 1973. After additional modifications, the contract was bumped up $20.2 million. Renovations were badly needed after undergoing Soviet occupation and neglect for 35 years.

The construction company then proceeded to complete only 50 percent of the work, even after five years of effort. In the process, AWCC bribed an overseeing State Department employee to allow them to use shoddy materials.

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“A corrupt COR was a factor in the oversight breakdown of the renovation work, and another COR who resigned his position was a factor in the financial settlement for AWCC,” the report noted. The contracting officer’s representative (COR) resigned and has been convicted in the United States on a separate issue, accepting kickbacks from another construction company. Wood trusses were used for roofing, instead of the required metal roof trusses without authorization. The COR looked the other way when AWCC covered up 30-year-old roofing material with new material on top. An outside firm found the defective workmanship.

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When SIGAR personally conducted an investigation and engineering assessment from April to September 2014, the office found that the prison houses 7,400 prisoners, but is only designed to accommodate 5,000. Prisoners were kept in hallways with cell doors left open.  Six backup diesel generators were installed by AWCC, but couldn’t be used, as they had never been connected to the prison’s power grid.

The State Department ended the contract on November 26, 2010, and after two years of negotiations, paid the firm $18.5 million dollars, amounting to 92 percent of the value of the original contract. Still, the Department is intent on finishing the project, calculating that it would cost another $16 million to both finish renovations and build a waste treatment facility, with an emphasis that the treatment facility be sustainable.

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