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Grassley blasts Biden admin for 'contempt toward the taxpayers' in handling of $40M of Afghanistan aid
March 17 2023, 08:00

First on Fox — Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says the State Department is showing "contempt" toward taxpayers as it slowly addresses watchdog complaints of $40 million in questionable aid to Afghanistan over the past decades.

In a letter to the State Department this week shared with Fox News digital, Grassley revealed that of the $40 million in aide that the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) had questioned, the department had only determined that $19,000 was allowable by law. And only $191,000 of improperly spent aid was in the process of being returned to the government, according to the letter.

"In two years, that’s all you can show the taxpayer; this is unacceptable," Grassley wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday. "Compliance with rules, regulations, and laws—especially when dealing with taxpayer money—is a demand, not an option."

State Department is among many agencies that have faced criticism for billions in taxpayer money wasted in Afghanistan reconstruction over nearly two decades ahead of the U.S.' withdrawal in August 2021. SIGAR has tracked billions of dollars given to contractors or grantees to accomplish projects aimed at helping Afghanistan rebuild. Many of those projects failed or were improperly implemented.

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SIGAR alerted Blinken in a letter March 1 that the State Department's response to 2019 recommendations were significantly delayed. The October 2019 report included "nearly $40 million in questioned costs, 20 instances of non-compliance with laws or regulations, and 24 deficiencies in internal controls," SIGAR wrote. 

Grassley said the list of funds was "extensive, embarrassing, and requires an immediate explanation."

State Department told SIGAR that it would not compile responses to all the recommendations in one report, but would respond to each recommendation individually.

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To Grassley, the State Department's "failure to fully address these recommendations for more than two years shows contempt toward the taxpayers who funded your activity."

Grassley requested rolling updates on the efforts to audit the questioned costs, along with reasons for the cause of the two-year delay, as well as records on the department's efforts to collect the improperly spent money.

SIGAR noted in its March 1 letter that the State Department was generally helpful in "closing" old recommendations.

However, the 14 recommendations that remain unaddressed could put State Department at risk of being out of compliance with federal law.

"If this trend of delay or inaction continues, the total questioned costs, instances of noncompliance, and deficiencies will only increase with additional financial audits and further magnify our concerns. Moreover, State will remain noncompliant with federal law and other requirements, failing to demonstrate sound stewardship of almost $40 million in U.S. reconstruction funds and not keeping commitments with SIGAR to be responsive to our audit recommendations," SIGAR wrote.

The State Department did not immediately return Fox News Digital's request for comment.