UN cites progress after Afghan police pay audit

A UN program cited progress in modernising payroll systems for Afghan police.

Last Updated: Apr 28, 2011, 08:37 AM IST

Washington: A United Nations program on Wednesday cited progress in modernising payroll systems for Afghanistan`s police, pushing back against questions about UN oversight that were raised by a US audit.

Afghanistan`s police are in large part funded by international donors to improve security in the war-torn country that cannot afford to pay its own cops.

The foreign donors have paid some USD 1.5 billion into a trust fund for Afghan police salaries, that is administered by the UN Development Program; about one-third of this money was donated by the United States. Some USD 1.26 billion of the fund has been disbursed to the Afghans.

But the US audit on Monday said lax recordkeeping meant Afghanistan`s Ministry of Interior did not know how many people actually work for the Afghan national police, creating a risk that the foreign donations used to pay them were being abused.

The audit by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said that UN oversight also was "an issue”.

Handing responsibility for security to Afghan forces is a key part of President Barack Obama`s strategy for the war against Taliban insurgents. But recent developments, including a massive jailbreak in Kandahar province, have cast further doubt on the reliability of Afghan security forces.

For the approximately 21 percent of the Afghan police who were still paid by cash, neither the Interior Ministry nor the United Nations "have verified payroll data and cannot confirm that only (Afghan national police) who work have been paid," a summary of the audit said.

The UN Development Program said on Wednesday said that for the police who are paid by cash, Afghanistan`s Ministry of Interior "has taken significant steps to minimise risks”.

"Cash is never disbursed by the (police) unit commander alone, but by a committee of at least three members from various departments," it said in a statement.

"Police signatures confirming receipt of salary are reviewed by the unit head," the statement added.

In any case, it was an improvement that 80 percent of the Afghan police were now paid by electronic funds transfer, the UNDP statement said. "Four years ago, this figure was less than one percent."

Current Afghan plans call for an increase in police forces to 134,000 officers by this October. But recently the number of police personnel records ranged from 111,774 to 125,218, the US audit said. The acting special inspector general, Herbert Richardson, said he worried about possible "ghost" employees on the Afghan police payroll.

In addition to helping fund police salaries, the United States has spent billions more to prepare Afghan forces for taking over security from US-led troops. Since 2002, the United States has provided USD 29 billion for training and equipping the Afghan Army and police.

Bureau Report