Tags: USAID | Egypt | redactions | audits

USAID Accused of Doctoring Audits Before Releasing Them

USAID Accused of Doctoring Audits Before Releasing Them
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters /Landov)

By    |   Thursday, 23 October 2014 02:28 PM

Officials at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have removed or altered critical details from audit reports on several occasions, agency whistleblowers say.

The Washington Post spoke with a number of agency auditors, who said a 21-page draft Inspector General report criticizing the agency for its handling of a "pro-democracy" program in Egypt, which spent $4.6 million to secure the release of 43 nongovernmental organization employees, was altered before its publication.

USAID paid the money to the Egyptian government in 2012 to free the individuals who had been detained there amid charges they were working in the country illegally.

As many as eight current auditors and employees told the Post that between 2011 and 2013, other reports critical of the USAID were also cleansed of critical comments.

Michael Carroll, the acting inspector general, withdrew his nomination on Wednesday to become permanent head of the organization, the Post reports.

One of the agency's biggest challenges is to reduce the backlog of unfinished audits, of which there were 370 as of September 2012, according to a Washington Examiner report from 2013.

The allegations raised in the Post article are not new.

In December, similar claims by whistleblowers were detailed in a letter sent by Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) to Carroll, Federal Times reports.

According to Federal Times, Coburn brought to Carroll's attention in a November 2013 letter the fact employees had been asked to “alter or remove significant recommendations regarding allowable contract costs, lax project oversight, and improper accounting.”

If the auditors did not alter the reports, Coburn wrote that they were demoted or experienced other forms of "systematic professional retaliation."

"You don’t hardly ever see this with other IGs," Coburn told The Post this week. "You certainly don’t see it to this extent. This is the worst we’ve seen."

The lack of transparency and cooperation with information requests also drew the ire of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which is responsible for remedying waste, fraud, and abuse in non-military Afghanistan reconstruction spending.

USAID, responsible for administering foreign assistance, has received $18 billion since 2002.

In a March 26 letter to USAID, John Arlington, SIGAR's general counsel, wrote concerning the agency's delay in responding to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for documents. He noted that at the end of fiscal year 2013, USAID had over 230 pending FOIA requests, with average wait times of 270 days.

In addressing USAID’s position on public disclosure of ministry assessments, Arlington said "at virtually every turn USAID has sought to withhold from the public information concerning the direct assistance programs discussed in SIGAR’s audit report."

He, too, noticed that reports from USAID were incomplete.

"However, when SIGAR compared the redacted versions of the ministry assessments that USAID provided to Congress with the original documents, we found that many of USAID’s redactions seemed to be without reasonable explanation or legal support," wrote Arlington.

He added that other USAID redactions "covered up information indicating that certain Afghan ministries lacked controls on the management of cash, could not keep track of fixed assets, and were using pirated copies of Microsoft software."

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Officials at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have removed or altered critical details from audit reports on several occasions, agency whistleblowers say.
USAID, Egypt, redactions, audits
Thursday, 23 October 2014 02:28 PM
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