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Audit finds US Embassy paid $8 million for meals it didn’t need 

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(Last Updated On: October 1, 2020)

An audit by the US State Department’s Office of Inspector General (IG) found $8.4 million was spent on meals that were not needed at the US Embassy in Kabul last year. 

In a report released on Tuesday, the IG stated  “the number of meals estimated in the task order for option year 4 (2019) was higher than it should have been, resulting in the Department paying almost $8.4 million for meals it did not need and that were not provided.”

Poor oversight by US company DynCorp International, which has the contract to provide meals, security and other services to the US Embassy in Kabul, cost the State Department millions more than necessary, the report stated. 

The IG also stated that because of poor record keeping the US can’t recover the $8.4 million paid for the meals and also can’t be sure DynCorp followed the terms of its contract. 

The State Department has paid DynCorp about $353 million since 2015 to provide food, security, and medical and other services and as per contract stipulations, DynCorp was to provide three meals a day, seven days a week, at a rate of about $21 each to cafeterias at the US Embassy and other consular facilities, the audit said.

DynCorp receives a fixed amount to provide about 2.9 million meals each year but the actual number of meals needed has dropped over the past few years as Embassy staff levels steadily decreased. 

However, a contracting officer last year based meals on 2016 personnel figures, the IG said.

“The Department did not consider the declining number of personnel living and working at the embassy compound and outlying US Government facilities,” the report said.

In November, the State Department finally reduced the number of meals required, bringing down food costs by 29 percent. Had the change been made earlier, the Department could have saved $8.4 million in 2019, the report said.

The audit also found the State Department’s contracting officers and representatives could not tell auditors how food quality standards were monitored, and said they lost their monthly oversight checklists during a computer upgrade.

DynCorp also could not provide 27 percent of the required documents checking sanitation, quality control and proof that goods had been received.

It also failed to develop a plan to reduce costs over time, as it had said it would when it secured the contract, the audit said.

 

COVID-19

Brazilian volunteer in COVID-19 vaccine trial dies 

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

Brazilian health authority Anvisa confirmed a volunteer in a clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University had died but said the trial would continue.

Oxford confirmed the plan to keep testing, saying in a statement that after careful assessment “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial,” Reuters reported.

A source told Reuters the trial would have been suspended if the volunteer who died had received the COVID-19 vaccine, suggesting the person was part of the control group that was given a meningitis vaccination.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo, which confirmed the volunteer was Brazilian, said a review committee had suggested the trial continue. 

The university is helping to coordinate phase 3 clinical trials in Brazil.

 

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Saleh rejects claims of civilians killed in Takhar airstrike

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Thursday rejected claims of civilian casualties, including children, following an airstrike in Takhar province on Wednesday night. 

In a message on Facebook, Saleh said: “The news of the killing of children in the mosque in Takhar is baseless.”

Referring to Tuesday night’s attack by the Taliban in the same province – which left more than 50 Afghan national security force members dead – Saleh said: “Those who buried our forces yesterday have been destroyed and we have undeniable proof.”

Earlier, security sources stated at least 12 people were killed and 14 wounded in the airstrike which they stated had targeted a mosque in Taloqan city.

Security sources said among the victims were children and the mosque’s imam.

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Two Romanian soldiers wounded in Kandahar IED explosion

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

Two Romanian soldiers were wounded on Wednesday evening when the vehicle they were patrolling in hit an improvised explosive device (IED) in Kandahar. 

In a Twitter post on Thursday, NATO’s Resolute Support mission stated: “On 21 Oct, a NATO Ground Defense Area patrol in Kandahar Province struck an IED injuring two Romanian soldiers. Coalition forces regularly conduct GDA patrols in the immediate areas surrounding bases.”

The Romanian Defense Ministry said a convoy of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles had been on patrol.

“The Romanian military was traveling with a convoy of MRAP vehicles in the Kandahar region. The explosive device went off when the last vehicle in the column passed. Sergeant Adrian Ioan Czifrak and Second Class Corporal Iosif Ioan Reman were injured as a result of the explosion,” the ministry reported.

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