Ranking Member Kay Granger Opening Statement Subcommittee on
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Oversight of
U.S. Civilian Assistance for Afghanistan
July 28, 2010
Thank you, Madam Chair, for calling this hearing today on oversight of U.S. Civilian Assistance for Afghanistan.
The subcommittee has held a series of hearings and briefings on Afghanistan since our subcommittee markup. We’ve addressed a range of concerns, but many important questions remain.
As the subcommittee seeks answers, I remain committed to our efforts in Afghanistan because I believe they are critical for U.S. national security. At the same time, I am equally committed to ensuring that the tremendous investment of U.S. assistance is used as intended. I’m interested in hearing from our witnesses today about how investments on the civilian side will contribute to overall success in Afghanistan. In addition, the subcommittee needs to know that mechanisms are in place to ensure that funds are being --and will be --spent properly.
I’d now like to welcome today’s witnesses – Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Dr. Raj Shah, the Administrator of U.S.A.I.D. Both of you play a critical role in executing the civilian strategy in Afghanistan, and I thank you for your service.
I believe the success of our civilian effort depends on three things – U.S. assistance programs must be focused on results, these funds must be spent in a transparent manner -- free from corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse, and we must be conducting our efforts alongside a reliable partner.
Let me explain more fully. First, it must be clear that civilian investments are achieving tangible results. A focus on achieving measurable outcomes needs to be part of the culture in U.S. agencies. This should funnel all the way down to the implementers -- the Afghan government, contractors, grantees, international organizations, and the multiple levels of awardees below them. I know that Administrator Shah is committed to focusing on monitoring and evaluation at U.S.A.I.D., and I hope this is his top priority in Afghanistan.
Next, it is critical that U.S. assistance is spent in a transparent way -- free from corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse. There are several elements of the administration’s strategy that seem particularly vulnerable. My first concern is with the “Afghan first” initiative. The administration plans to expand this initiative and send billions of dollars through the Afghan budget. While I certainly recognize the need to build the capacity of the Afghan government, the ongoing allegations of corruption and illicit activity do not give me confidence that now is the time to subject U.S. funds to unnecessary risk. We must ensure that funds go to Afghan ministries for the right reasons and to achieve real results, not simply to meet an arbitrary goal of sending a certain percentage of assistance through the government.
In addition to increasing aid to the Afghan government, the administration also plans on channeling more funds through internationally-managed trust funds. But it is still not clear to me that those funds can be properly overseen and audited by the U.S. Government. Another concern is whether U.S. staff is able to provide adequate oversight of assistance programs. This subcommittee has been quite generous in its support -- allowing a tripling of staff in Afghanistan over the last 18 months. But increasing the number of staff does not necessarily mean that oversight is improving. It is difficult to determine if staff is able to ensure that contracts and grants are properly managed.
Finally, in order for U.S. efforts to be successful, we must have a reliable partner. The U.S. government can place appropriate safeguards on our assistance dollars, but our efforts will not be successful without cooperation from our Afghan partners.
It is the administration’s responsibility to hold Afghan officials accountable for commitments made last week at the Kabul conference. There must be a renewed commitment to the people of Afghanistan in order to build confidence in their government. That starts with the Afghan government living up to its promises to do more on oversight, transparency, and delivering results for the afghan people. Simply making announcements and creating more bureaucracy will not improve the situation. Results must be clear.
In closing, I’ve described a long list of concerns, but I also know that the two witnesses before us today are highly skilled in diplomacy and development. I have confidence that you can address these issues.
I hope your testimony today will convince the subcommittee that we can continue to provide the funds necessary, and the oversight required, to support the president’s strategy in Afghanistan.
Thank you, Madam Chair.