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One million dollars embezzled from Kabul hospital project?

Monday 7 January 2008, by Kamran Mir Hazar, Robert Maier

All the versions of this article: [English] [فارسى]

Note: Kamran Mir Hazar prepared this report, including evidence, two years ago when he was the head of the News Department at Radio Kleed in Kabul. Unfortunately, the Attorney General’s Office of Afghanistan has done nothing yet to arrest or question the accused people. They have been contacted repeatedly and been provided with documents and other evidence.

Mr. Gary K. Helseth, General Director of the 600 millionUSD-a-year United Nations Office of Project Services-Afghanistan(UNOPS) who had worked in Afghanistan for over 20 years, left the country two months after this report was first published. His U.N. e-mail addresses are not functional, and so far, we have been unable to contact him for additional information.

The Project

In 2002, the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan asked UNOPS to add 50 more beds to the 52 bed Khairkhana Hospital. UNOPS accepted the project. The Italian Government Foreign Office then committed funding up to 2,200,000 USD for this project.

After the funds were delivered to UNOPS- Afghanistan, they were released to the global Italian aid organization, Intersos— less 270,000 USD of the original amount, which apparently was taken by UNOPS. Intersos is a corporation that operates as an NGO in Afghanistan and has an office in Shahr-e-Now, Kabul. It was organized primarily by the Italian Trade Union Confederation in 1992, and has a current annual budget of approximately 30,000,000 USD.

Afghan Government Investigation

The hospital project was overseen by Intersos, but what was the result and how much of the 2,200,000 USD was actually spent on the project? In this regard Mr. Samadi, Director of Criminal Investigation Department of Attorney General Office says:

The Intersos Corporation did not work on the project but signed a contract with another Afghan Corporation called Ahyaye Mojadad Char Dehi, led by Engineer Amin for 920,000 USD. Where did the balance of 1,010,000 USD go?

Mr. Samadi adds, "we asked the hospital personnel and the employees of the Afghan Corporation who worked on the project with the Intersos organization, and eventually found that this Afghan Corporation had some collusion and arrangements with Intersos. Based on our evaluation and inventory, they did not spend more than 250,000 to 300,000 USD on the project."

The Attorney General’s Office claims that they have found some concrete evidence and documents for this project. They are looking for Engineer Amin who they suspect may have embezzled some funds, but he cannot be found. Mr. Samadi says that Engineer Amin once phoned the Attorney General’s Office and threatened them not to investigate this case.

Mr. Samadi, stated that Intersos allocated 80,000 USD just for the demolition of two old rooms at the main gate of the hospital. When I asked him why he did not summon and investigate the foreign people involved in the project, he answered:

The Legal and Consulting Board of the Office of President sent us a letter in which it indicated that it is within our jurisdiction to make a claim against Intersos in an Afghan court. We then contacted the Italian Embassy and said that if they refused to assist us with this case, we would take it to the World Court in The Hague through our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UN. This was too great of an amount of money for poor Afghanistan to let just go missing, and possibly embezzled.

No Prosecution

The question remains: Why is the Attorney General’s Office, despite its legal jurisdiction and separation of judicial power from the executive, still under the influence the Office of the President. Do the foreign people involved in this project deserve political immunity from prosecution?
It is clear that the Attorney General can prosecute foreigners based on domestic laws. Only Ambassadors, Diplomats and C and D grade foreign officials of the UN have political immunity, so in this case all of the Intersos people involved in this project may be legally prosecuted.

While the Attorney General’s office did not know Intersos’ Kabul address, I found it in Shar-e -Now (New City) Kabul. I visited the office and found a Mr. Marco Rotelli, who did not answer my simple questions but refered me to UNOPS. I tried to contact the responsible persons at UNFPA and UNOPS in Afghanistan. Eventually, I made an appointment with the spokesperson and the Director of UNFPA.

Interview with Gary K. Helseth

Mr. Gary K. Helseth firmly rejected the possibility for any kind of embezzlement in this project. He said that the project was very successful and they were satisfied with its completion.
He added that they had employed an Afghan Engineer and a foreign engineer for this project and all the contracts had been already signed in New York.

Regarding the amount of 2,200,000 USD, he said that Intersos Corporation received 2,000,000 for the project, and 200,000 USD was spent on travel expenses and salaries of experts and employees. He said that the Intersos Corporation had been introduced to UNOPS by the Italian Government.

When I asked Mr. Helseth why Intersos did not do the project itself but instead signed a contract with Ahyaye Mojadad Char Dehi, he answered, "It is not true!" He added that Intersos signed a contract with a different corporation, and the money was spent by that corporation. He said they have documents that show that this project was done well.

Regarding a question of the term of the warranty for the constructed building, Mr. Helseth said that this project was guaranteed for one year . “A few years ago we could not guarantee a project for even a year. Most projects in Afghanistan are guaranteed for just three or four months.” He agreed that the amount of 80,000 USD was too much for the demolition of two old rooms in the hospital and said he would check the documents.

"Mr. Helseth, please count and check this project penny by penny and kindly give me the documents to see when ready," I said and he agreed to do so.

A few days later, I received a call from Mr. Helseth. He happily said that he had some ten kilos of documents on this project showing that it was completed successfully, and added that I could come pick them up at his office. When I arrived, he was photocopying the documents, so we agreed that he would send them to my office in Radio Kaleed.

After they arrived, I looked for some experts regarding these documents.

Experts Disagree With UNOPS Findings

The experts who accepted my request did want me to reveal their names. One of them still works with the USAID and has completed many projects with that organization. He said, the total cost of this project is 646,900 USD Compared to the budget of 2,200,000USD about 1,550,100 USD is unaccounted for. This expert emphasized that the budget belonged to 2002 and currently it must be more because costs are higher.

Another expert who also wished to remain anonymous estimated the project cost to be 776,280 USD with 1,423,720 USD unaccounted for. He emphasized that for an amount of 776,280 USD “we can build a hospital of about 2,587 square meter (20,000 sq. ft.) to a global standard.”
This is the amount of space required by the Intersos and UNOPS Khairkhana Hospital project. He added that “even if we ignore the real amount spent, the maximum amount showed in the reports of the project is still 1,035,000 USD which shows the possible embezzlement of more than one million USD on this single project.”

Now we should ask Mr. Gary Helseth, former Director of UNOPS in Afghanistan how he defends his organization and Intersos in this project.

Claims of Shoddy Construction at Khairkhana Hospital

When I was making this report, I went to Khairkhana Hospital and met some of the patients. Asked if this hospital met global standards, Mr. Mohibullah Nejat the Director said; " The main problem of the new constructed building is its plumbing system, which was to some extent repaired by the coalition forces about four months ago, and is a bit better now.

“The building that was built by Intersos does not have a ventilation system or a medical waste system, which are required for a medical complex. Medical complexes need special engineers, who know about these things,” he added.

Unfortunately when evaluating completed projects in Afghanistan more carefully, we discover even greater numbers of possible embezzlement. It is the responsibility of the government to oversee the operations of the NGOs and corporations. The Attorney General’s Office also has a legal duty and responsibility to prosecute the people who steal from society.

Forum posts

  • That is a good story. Thanks

    • It is not only Gary Helseth. The Australians, New Zealanders and some Canadians are also involved in the UNOPS scam. They have a mafia type of organization under the umbrella of UN. It is sick. They had lots of fun with money from Afghan Elections. LOTS OF bags of Cash $$$$$$$$ from US tax payers!!! Wake up US citizens and go after these thieves......

    • If you have any specific information regarding corruption in UNOPS, please contact us with details at rgm234@gmail.com

    • I will give a clue! Investigate Ian Gough (UK Citizen). Ian with the help of his national staff, Basir Samit (Afghan Citizen) stole Millions of $$$ from Election money in Herat. With that stolen money Ian now owns an NGO (Paramedics) company in Kabul. I will give you a very specific (one of many many) incident when $15000 election money disappeared while transporting the money from Heart to Ghor by helicopter. This will get started!

    • Dear Un-known Reader,
      I know there are many cases of corruption in Afghanistan. But please provide us evidences for what you are saying. Otherwise I can’t accept it.
      Regards

    • Well you couldn’t expect the US tax payers to hand over their donation direct to the Afghan government could you? The term "leaving the fox to look after the chicken house" comes to mind.
      I particularly love the Australian, New Zealanders and Canadians part. Just what of activities do you refer to as "mafia type". You clearly don’t have a clue do you?
      You want to see improvement in your lives over there? Good well let the foreign workers get on with the job of building hospitals, schools and roads without facing the daily danger of getting shot, blown up or kidnapped. In other words, sort out your own internal problems before criticising those who leave family and loved ones far away to come and try to rebuild your country.
      As for the statement of "experts" who looked at the financial documents. The fact that they choose to remain nameless means they have no belief in the statements they made.
      My fellow Canadian, NZ and Australian work colleagues await your extradition orders. Good luck!

    • Dear Pal,
      I can tell that you are an Anglo-Saxon god gifted colonial master and you have convinced yourself that you are a superior creature. You have convinced yourself that the people in the third world are your slaves and you are the master. You have convinced yourself that the so-called third world people cannot live without your help. You have convinced yourself that these poor people are there for you to exploit and you have the total ownership of these dirty people. You have convinced yourself that you are clean and they are dirty. You have convinced yourself that you are building them roads and hospitals. You have convinced yourself that these people deserve what have come upon them. You have convinced yourself that these dirty people can live without your help. You have convinced yourself that you are bringing them democracy just like the one you have back at home. You have convinced yourself that you are not paid enough for all the favors you are doing for these dirty people. I can go on an on and on……. I can read your mind and know exactly what you think. But let me try to install some facts in your superior brain. You are the problem. You are nothing but a thief, a robber, and a parasite. Your business is to go around the world and create problems and then take advantage of the situation. One example is Afghanistan. You have created a corrupt government in Afghanistan. It is you who have created this corrupt government in Afghanistan so that you have the advantage to steal your chunk. It is you who gets a pleasure when a bomb goes off. Each bomb means more money for you. It is very simple my friend. The more insecurity in the country, the more free money for you. You really think you want to build schools and hospital for these dirty people? You are just staying in your guesthouse getting drunk and you have a good reason “Security is bad”. My friend the reality is that the longer this is happening the more money you are making. It is very simple. It is not rocket science. I bet you are having a good time in Kabul. You are having a peaceful time in your room. You have plenty to drink. You have “dirty” servants cooking your favorite food. You do not have to worry about your ugly wife nagging on you. You do not have to worry about going to work and driving (gas is pretty expensive back at home). Your local “dirty” driver is waiting for you on 24-hour notice. My friend just chill out and continue having a good time. Keep drinking and smoking…
      By the way Afghan Hash is great! Isn’t it???

    • Dear Pal,
      Let me assure you, I did not consider my Afghan colleagues dirty, or inferior. In fact many of them were and still are my very good friends. Funnily enough they still call me regualarly to pass on their wishes to myself and my family. Not really something one would expect if I had treated them with the contempt you allege in your ramblings above. I gained no pleasure whatsoever from seeing bombs go off over there killing and maiming innocent people. Except for the occasional one that detonated prematurely taking out only the perpetrator of the planned attack.
      I would suggest it is you yourself that has the persecution / inferiority complex. I stronlyg advise you don’t drag the good people of your country down to your level.

    • OK, let’s take a look at this drivvel and answer each allegation separately.

      Dear Pal, I can tell that you are an Anglo-Saxon god gifted colonial master and you have convinced yourself that you are a superior creature.
      The country I am from has never colonised another.

      You have convinced yourself that the people in the third world are your slaves and you are the master.
      I was not aware that Afghanistan was part of the third world - back to geography and history lessons for you.

      You have convinced yourself that the so-called third world people cannot live without your help.
      Not in the way to which they now aspire. You only have to look at their love affair with mobile phones, plasma TVs and modern cars.

      You have convinced yourself that these poor people are there for you to exploit and you have the total ownership of these dirty people. You have convinced yourself that you are clean and they are dirty.
      This says nothing really, just incoherrent rhetoric.

      You have convinced yourself that you are building them roads and hospitals.
      Well we are doing that but unfortunately the roads, schools, clinics and whatever else get destroyed faster than they can be built.

      You have convinced yourself that these people deserve what have come upon them.
      No but those who terrorise their fellow countryment or weaker people certainly deserve whatever they get.

      You have convinced yourself that these dirty people can live without your help.
      What’s with your obsession about dirty people pal? Not once have the Afghans been referred to as dirty. Tell me are you familiar with the term - "digging yourself into a hole"
      You have convinced yourself that you are bringing them democracy just like the one you have back at home.
      I wouldn’t wish any country to suffer the incompetent politicians that run my country.

      You have convinced yourself that you are not paid enough for all the favors you are doing for these dirty people.
      I was paid exactly what I agreed to go to Afghanistan for. Again, you are putting words into other people’s mouths.
      I can go on an on and on…….
      I thought you already had

      I can read your mind and know exactly what you think. But let me try to install some facts in your superior brain.
      If my brain, as you put it, is so "superierior", how do YOU propose to install additional facts?

      You are the problem. You are nothing but a thief, a robber, and a parasite. Your business is to go around the world and create problems and then take advantage of the situation.
      Funny, never had it put to me that way before. What’s wrong pal - do you find the salaries paid to internationals something to which you aspire? Fine, make yourself worthy of those salaries.
      One example is Afghanistan. You have created a corrupt government in Afghanistan.
      I thought the presidential and parliamentary elections put the government of the people in power. Oh I see, the government YOU wanted did’t get elected. They’re proabely still hiding amongst the rocks and caves down around Uruzghan, Gardez, Nangahar and similar places.

      It is you who have created this corrupt government in Afghanistan so that you have the advantage to steal your chunk. It is you who gets a pleasure when a bomb goes off. Each bomb means more money for you. It is very simple my friend. The more insecurity in the country, the more free money for you. You really think you want to build schools and hospital for these dirty people? You are just staying in your guesthouse getting drunk and you have a good reason “Security is bad”. My friend the reality is that the longer this is happening the more money you are making. It is very simple. It is not rocket science. I bet you are having a good time in Kabul. You are having a peaceful time in your room. You have plenty to drink. You have “dirty” servants cooking your favorite food. You do not have to worry about your ugly wife nagging on you. You do not have to worry about going to work and driving (gas is pretty expensive back at home).

      Your local “dirty” driver is waiting for you on 24-hour notice. My friend just chill out and continue having a good time.
      Why do you keep calling my driver/s dirty? Do you know them? Do you know their bathing habits? One of my drivers who I paid to take himself and his family on pilgrimage to Mecca certainly had no problem with their tratment by me. I seem to recall being told that I am in his daily prayers. My only crime now is that I unfortunately do not repay that honour

      Fact is pal - you are a fool! You do not know me, you do not know my staff, you do not know what I feel about the people of afghanistan or about the country as a whole. In fact looking back over your post, you don’t seem to know much about anything at all.

      Keep drinking and smoking… I would have kept on drinking but the fun police (Minsistry of Vice and Virtue)or whatever they called themselves took it away. Shame really as there were no shortage of Aghan men that I knew who loved nothing more tha a social drink.
      By the way Afghan Hash is great! Isn’t it???
      Ahh now I see where your problem is - I should have read this first and would have realised straight away why you are making such a muppet of yourself.

    • "United States Protection and Investigations. The indictment released Friday names the company and four employees: CEO Dwayne Spier; President Barbara Spier; USPI’s Afghanistan operations manager, William Felix Dupre; and executive assistant Behzad Mehr.

      The government says the Texas company was supposed to provide security for contractors working in Afghanistan. But the indictment accuses USPI and its employees of inflating expenses for rental vehicles, fuel and security personnel."

      Here we go and you will be next...

    • Now this IS good news. Spier and Dupre are crooks!

    • Word is that Mr and Mrs Spier had to post one million USD bail. Dupre is locked up in jail in California somewhere.
      Maybe also need to ask some questions of a Mr Mike Warren, ex USMC grunt (not a smart one either) He was in it on a lot of the shit USPI was doing.

    • While I find this corruption case involving a top UN Official appalling, I hope the rest of these Top employees learn a lesson. So “by accident” if not “by design” this nation-building makes its way out of the paper and into the reality. By the way, none of you mentioned this: Gary Helseth while working for the UN in & around 1996 got kicked out of Afghanistan by the Taliban regime and was called a “PNG – persona non grata”. Someone can do some digging there and throw some light please?

    • As far as I know, in 1997, in Kandahar, UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) office organised a meeting on human rights for Taliban officials of that province. The heads of the UN agencies working in Kandahar were also invited; Mr. Helseth and Dave (family name unknown) of UNOPS were among them. One of the UNHCR speakers was a lady; the Taliban did not authorise her to speak in public / directly / face to face to the Taliban attendents. They insisted that she speaks behind a curtain so that her face could not be seen by the Taliban. The UNHCR Head of the Office in Afghanistan complied to the Taliban request (he was later critised for that) and the lady finally gave her presentation on human rights behind a curtain. Mr. Helseth disagreed to the fact that UNHCR had complied with a Taliban request which did not respect the UN principle of gender equity; he publicly made his views known to the Taliban who declared him (and Dave) PNG.

  • Corruption rife in Afghanistan, president admits
    13 Nov 2007 13:27:58 GMT
    Source: Reuters
    By Hamid Shalizi

    KABUL, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Corruption among Afghan officials is rife and government must be reformed to help end 30 years of war, misery and oppression, President Hamid Karzai said on Tuesday in an unusually frank assessment of his country’s woes.

    Large profits from Afghanistan’s $3-billion opium crop, funds skimmed from aid and reconstruction contracts and bribes for services fuel official corruption, weaken public faith in the government and increase support for hardline Taliban insurgents.

    "We have seen a lot of misery in this country, but still we have not learned a lesson from our mistakes. The luxurious houses and buildings either belong to government staff or members of parliament," Karzai told a meeting of village elders in Kabul.

    The capital Kabul and other cities are currently undergoing a building boom with gaudy villas springing up in wealthier neighbourhoods while the poor live in mud huts with no running water or electricity.

    After Karzai spoke, an old man rose to his feet.

    "There is something I can’t tell you, but if I don’t tell you I will feel guilty inside," he told the president who urged him to speak his mind.

    "The government and cabinet members are sucking the blood of innocent people, we can’t tolerate the corruption in every government office," he said.

    "Yes, you are absolutely right," replied Karzai. "I appeal to all Afghans, especially those in power, to work hand-in-hand to build, to serve this country without deceiving and exploiting it."

    "ALLAH SAVE US"

    Afghanistan is ranked 172 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s corruption perception index.

    Official graft is one of the factors that has allowed opium production to rise to record-breaking levels, the United Nations says, it also weakens the grip of government on many regions — both factors which boost the insurgency.

    More than six years after U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban for refusing to give up al Qaeda leaders in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Afghanistan is still suffering from daily violence and a spreading Taliban insurgency.

    "The number of martyrs is increasing every day, and at least one person from every family has been martyred in the past 30 years," said Karzai.

    Afghanistan has been in a more or less constant state of war since a 1978 communist coup.

    "May Allah save us from this misery. We have no patience with the current situation in Afghanistan. We have no patience with further enmity and atrocities in this nation. May Allah may save us from this internal and external oppression."

    "We haven’t learned a lesson yet. There is deceit, misuse and playing with this land," he said. "The system of this government must be reformed."

    Karzai has led Afghanistan since shortly after the 2001 fall of the Taliban and has tried to balance influence between competing factions and ethnic groups.

    While Karzai is widely seen as honest, Western countries have long urged him to take tough action against officials and some of those close to him who are alleged to be corrupt. (Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

  • It seems that Gary Helseth has gone missing...a good place to start searching would be in Sri Lanka. The contact there would be the UNOPS Country Coordinator (Rainer Frauenfeld -Sri Lanka Implementation Facility) with whom Mr. Helseth worked in Sri Lanka (Jaffna), the Sudan and ultimately Afghanistan. They have been togther for 10 years and Mr. Frauenfeld was mentored by Mr. Helseth....

    What about Susan Helseth? Is she still at UNICEF in Afghanistan?

    • What does Susan’s whereabouts have to do with you or this story? You low-life scum.

  • It was not a pleasant surprise to see your story on the Kabul Hospital and UNOPS. It was especially disturbing to see you continue to misrepresent the facts.

    First of all as you know – that project was not done by our office in Kabul – but directly by NY in early 2002 – BEFORE I had even set up the Kabul office. They used an Italian Engineer and worked through Italian NGO. So as you know I did not sign documents nor make payments. So that was the facts on my role.

    When you asked my office for documents I went to InterSos and New York UNOPS office and retrieved documents and showed them to you.

    Clearly they showed the million dollars in contracts and the substantial work that was done. UNOPS stood by that work and I relayed that to you.

    So first of all the work was done and second of all if you continue to question it – why do you question me when you know that this work was not done by my office?

    I noticed when we first met that you preferred your own “facts” rather than the truth – it is a shame as a professional journalist that you continue this and unfortunate that you have convinced your new ermployer to misreport the facts. They should simply check documents and dates to confirm what I say about my role - and the same documents will also show the substantial amount of work Intersos contracted .

    These kinds of stories as well as the talk on elections is a dis service to the many many international and the 100,000 Afghans who worked very hard on these projects. I guess some people just want to point so many fingers at others so that their own hands(fingers) are full and maybe that is why they actually do nothing?

    I have maintained the same email account for 15 years - the UN account is always terminated by the agency on separation. I did not leave Afghnaoistan 2 months after initail report - except on planned tarvel as I go in and out dozens of times each year from 2002 through 2007. I gave UNOPS notice of my intent to separate in late 2006 and it became official in 2007.

    I have spent many years of my life in Afghnaistan and the country and people have always had a special place in my heart. I know that the many friends that know me disregard your type of journalism - but it still is upsetting when I realize that it is Afghans doing this after all the work we have put in.

    Gary Helseth
    May 13, 2008

    • AS I know Mr. Gary from 1995, he is a good friend of Afghan people an provided fundelnetal support to the present and the past government of Afghanistan.He has worked colosly with differernt ministries as service provider. Most of his projects were implimented by contrators or ministries experties. On the other hand, he was country director not treasour or procurment officer to miss use the money. On his time UNOPS expand unbleivalbly as it was needed and alots of people were involved to perform varieties of task which was not easy for him to control. I am sour that his honesty will apper later to all.

      Mohammadullah
      ACC/ Afghanistan