Everything must go: Canada takes huge writedown on surplus gear in Afghanistan
By Lee Berthiaume, Postmedia News March 8, 2012
OTTAWA — Private companies managed to wring major deals out of the Canadian military in the months leading up to the end of the combat mission in Afghanistan, purchasing nearly $2 million worth of equipment in Kandahar for less than $100,000, internal defence department documents show.
Another $3.8 million worth of baseball gloves, computers, armoured SUVs and other supplies that couldn't be sold ended up being donated or destroyed.
The documents are part of a briefing package prepared for Defence Minister Peter MacKay and cover the period from June 1, 2011 to Oct. 15, 2011. The totals do not include items that were sold, donated or destroyed from Oct. 16 to Dec. 12, when the last Canadian troops left Kandahar airfield.
Prior to closing the Canadian camp, about 1,200 soldiers were tasked with determining what vehicles, electronics and other equipment should be returned to Canada, what was too expensive to transport back and should be sold or given away, and what items were to be destroyed.
The documents provide a dollar value and a disposal cost for each item and, if it was sold, how much money was raised from each individual sale.
Nearly $2.7 million worth of equipment ended up being donated, most of it to the Afghan National Army and a U.S. military unit that provides humanitarian assistance to communities and Afghans in Kandahar province.
Among the items the ANA received were $443,000 worth of tents and power generators, two armoured SUVs valued at $184,853 each, a $1,208 bench press, a $700 salad bar, and an $85 barbecue.
The U.S. unit was given water tanks worth several thousand dollars each, a batch of sea containers worth $24,101, more than $1 million in canvas, 40 baseball gloves valued at $1,120, and 1,901 bags of charcoal briquettes that cost $7.49 each, for a total of $14,238.
While the ANA and U.S. military benefitted by receiving large donations of Canadian equipment for free, dozens of contractors and private companies were snapping up bargain-basement deals.
Among the buyers was Maryland-based demining company Ronco Consulting, which got a $21,000 sound system for $105 and more than $114,000 worth of electronics for $567, among other things.
A Danish vehicle modification company, IM Jensen, purchased $50,000 worth of computers for $250, $10,000 worth of medical equipment for $298, and $7,000 in work masks for $20.
Some other deals included $19,866 in treadmills that were sold for $1,092, more than $12,500 worth of safety matches sold for $792, and $33,000 worth of camping equipment given to vehicle manufacturer and service provider Caterpillar for $26.
More than $1.1 million worth of equipment which couldn't be sold or donated — much of it computers and associated components — was destroyed, the documents say.
Brig.-Gen. Chuck Lamarre, who oversaw the closure of the mission in Kandahar, told a Senate committee on Feb. 13 that many factors contributed to whether an item was sold, donated or destroyed rather than brought back to Canada.
"Is it worth bringing it back?" he said. "Do we need it? Can we buy it back in Canada?
"Sometimes it got more sophisticated, where we had vehicles that we had been using, such as SUVs, which we were not going to bring back to Canada due to how much wear and tear we had already put on them."
He said another consideration was the need to prepare the Afghan army to take over responsibility for the country's security in 2014.
Liberal defence critic John McKay said he understood the difficulties and high cost of transporting equipment out of Afghanistan, and the cost-benefit analysis that would have been undertaken.
"But somebody got one heck of a great deal," he said, referring to the private companies that purchased Canadian equipment. "You have to wonder about the efforts they put in to selling it. If this was your stuff and my stuff, would you be so enthusiastic about walking away from it?"
NDP defence critic David Christopherson said the government must explain the process for selling the equipment to ensure there wasn't any wrongdoing.
"Was there a sweetheart deal or not?" he asked. "What was the process? It certainly does raise questions."http://www.canada.com/news/Everything+m ... story.html