Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill is demanding answers about a barely used power plant paid for by American taxpayers. The plant near Kabul, Afghanistan cost more than $300 million.
Continuing her ongoing oversight of waste, fraud, and abuse in contracts in Afghanistan, McCaskill—Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight and a former state auditor—this week demanded answers from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on its contracts to build and maintain the Tarakhil Power Plant near Kabul, Afghanistan.
The Tarakhil plant was completed in 2010, after cost overruns of almost 150 percent, at a total expense of $307 million to USAID. USAID has since spent about $27 million on maintenance—pushing the costs to one-third of $1 billion on one power plant.
“I recently learned that, since the Tarakhil power plant has been handed over to the Afghans, it has generated only 2.2% of the power it was designed to produce,”
McCaskill wrote. “The power plant operates only as an emergency power source and its generators sit idle most of the time. Worse, this limited use is actually damaging to plant equipment and, over time, could lead to catastrophic failure.”
McCaskill continued in the letter: “Outrageously, this waste seems to have been entirely predictable and preventable. The Tarakhil generators can combust either diesel or heavy fuel oil (HFO). Because of the cold climate and the lack of delivery and storage facilities to handle HFO, Tarakhil must be fueled with diesel, which is extremely expensive to import into Afghanistan. The plant loses money with each kilowatt-hour of electricity it generates.”
McCaskill notes in the letter that USAID has known of these problems and lack of capacity for the Afghan government and utilities to operate the plant sustainably since at least 2010, but has not identified a more economical and affordable fuel source. The letter requests USAID provide documentation of all contracts, task orders, expenditures, and mission staff and their training programs for the power plant, as well as an analysis of a more economical and affordable fuel supply.