Land Reform – Impact & Sustainability of $41.2 Million USAID Program Unknown

Today, SIGAR released an audit of the $41.2 million USAID-funded Land Reform in Afghanistan (LARA) Program

Key points:

— Under the current Afghan government, millions of displaced Afghans have returned home, often seeking to reclaim the land they previously owned.

— The hundreds of thousands who have not been able to reclaim their land have resorted to squatting on the outskirts of urban areas in informal settlements unrecognized by the government. The U.S. Institute of Peace has reported that around 70 percent of urban residents in Afghanistan live in these types of informal settlement.

— By some estimates, land values have increased by 1,000 percent in urban areas since 2001, creating increased economic incentives for theft and fraud. Afghan land reform experts say the scramble for land will accelerate over the next decade as economic development increases.

— Land is increasingly a major source of conflict, involved in approximately half of personal and communal disputes in Afghanistan, according to a U.S. Institute of Peace expert.

— Private citizens and many current and former members of the Afghan government, including judges, ministers, and parliamentarians, have stolen public and private land, or have been involved in facilitating corruption and fraud in the land titling process.

— Locally maintained paper records are poorly archived, incomplete, more susceptible to damage, and at risk of forgery or replacement, all of which make it easier for land to be taken illegally.

— Because many powerful Afghans, such as warlords and government officials, have connections to the Afghan Parliament and the judiciary, the government has had little incentive to tackle corruption or enact new anti-land theft legislation developed with LARA support. A senior Arazi official said approximately 60 percent of all corruption in the Afghan judiciary involves land ownership.

— USAID spent a total of $96.7 million from 2004 through 2014 to reform the existing land administration system.

— USAID did not have the information it needed to make decisions, properly allocate resources, gather lessons learned, and adapt LARA to achieve its goals and objectives.

— Because USAID did not fully measure LARA’s performance during or after implementation, the agency cannot fully establish whether LARA achieved its goals and objectives, or what impact the $41.2 million program had on improving land administration in Afghanistan.

— USAID did not provide documentation for oversight it should have performed from September 2013 through November 2014. This apparent gap in oversight accounted for more than a year—or over a quarter of the contract.

— LARA’s program achievements are at risk and funds spent on the program may end up being wasted because USAID did not assess the sustainability of key elements of the LARA program in areas key to transitioning ownership to the Afghan government.

— Currently, the U.S. government does not have any programs planned to continue to support land reform in Afghanistan, placing the onus solely on the Afghan government to address these problems.

Full Report: https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/audits/SIGAR-17-27-AR.pdf

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