“…fighting is being quickly followed by â€œcash-for-workâ€ programs meant to put local communities back to work, along with other reconstruction projects.
Cash for work, however, has some risks of its own. The biggest potential problem is fraud, often in the form of the â€œphantom projectâ€ (a task that is never actually undertaken or completed) or the â€œphantom staffâ€ (payrolls that are padded with no-shows). But tracking dollars in cash-for-work schemes is essential. As the U.S. Agency for International Development learned in Iraq, money spent unwisely on public works schemes can end up in the hands of insurgents.
So how do you track cash-for-work in a place like Helmand, where fighting still rages? John Stephens, who manages programs in Afghanistan for the U.S. charity Mercy Corps, came up with one solution: Use cameras with GPS to verify aid projects in insecure places where expatriate staff canâ€™t oversee projects in person.
The idea is simple: If an area is too dicey to send in expats, Mercy Corps sends in Afghan staff with GPS cameras â€” either a Nikon point-and-shoot, or a Garmin handheld GPS with built-in camera â€” to verify that the projects are actually being undertaken in the right places, so they can pay wages. The data is then uploaded to a Google Earthâ€“style program, so Mercy Corps â€” which implements USAID projects â€” can track projects and their participants.
In Afghanistan, this kind of accountability is key. As the Washington Post reports today, U.S. officials are concerned about a â€œblizzard of cashâ€ that is being hand-carried out of the country. Some of that money may be legit, but thereâ€™s also a serious concern that the U.S. government may be indirectly fueling corruption through a massive infusion of aid dollars to do everything from building roads to picking up trash and cleaning canals."
Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/02/using-laptops-cameras-and-gps-to-track-afghanistan-cash/?intcid=inform_relatedContent#ixzz0i5GPKq4Z
2010-03-13 18:50:21 UTC