WASHINGTON — The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction has found that several USAID-funded public health facilities in Kabul province have inaccurately identified geospatial coordinates.
The report comes as questions remain — due to shifting answers — as to why coalition forces inadvertently bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz province on Oct. 3. Confusion over geospatial coordinates may have contributed to the incident.
According to John Sopko, the special inspector general, in a Jan. 5 letter to the USAID administrator, six of the 32 facilities inspected in the region were more than 10 kilometers away from the USAID-provided coordinates. One facility was within 5 to 10 kilometers and three facilities were within 1 to 5 kilometers. The rest came within 1 kilometer of the provided coordinates.
Sopko said site inspectors relied on knowledge of the area and assistance from locals to find all 32 facilities.
“Robust program oversight requires specific knowledge of the location where the service is provided, and accurate location-specific information is critical to ensure that the local population is receiving the intended services,” Sopko writes.
Moreover, 10 additional facilities SIGAR was not able to inspect did not have any geospatial-stamped photos or monitoring reports, Sopko found. USAID provided SIGAR with files it believed demonstrated the physical location and existence of the facilities, he said.
“Our review of the limited information contained in USAID’s files leads us to believe that the USAID photos may support the district location and existence of 1 of the 10 facilities SIGAR did not inspect,” Sopko states. “For the remaining 9 facilities, USAID provided undated or unclear photographs which we do not believe demonstrate the physical location or existence of the purported facility.”
This is just a snapshot of a bigger problem tracking more than 600 medical facilities supposedly built throughout Afghanistan. A June 25, 2015, letter Sopko wrote to USAID’s acting administrator questions the USAID-provided geospatial coordinates for 80 percent of the facilities — 510 out of 641 — in the country.
Sopko said his office’s investigation into the accuracy of the coordinates found “weaknesses” in the data of 56 facilities. Six were located in Pakistan, six in Tajikistan and one in the Mediterranean Sea.
Thirty facilities were found to be located in a province different from USAID-provided information, and in 13 cases SIGAR found two different funded facilities at the same location.
Sopko also notes that nearly 200 facilities showed no physical structure within 400 feet of the reported coordinates and about half of those showed no physical structure within a half mile of the reported coordinates.
Of the 32 facilities Sopko’s team was able to inspect in this round, some of them didn’t have access to running water or electricity. Additionally, 16 facilities disposed of medical waste in open-air kilns that could be accessible to the public. Sopko notes children were observed playing outside several facilities and risk exposure to the waste.