Anti-graft panel says corruption poses major challenge to Afghanistan


Kabul : A report of a high-level anti-corruption committee released last week has warned that corruption continues to be a major challenge to Afghanistan’s national development, international aid and even legitimacy of the Afghan Government.

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The Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC), which was set up through a Presidential decree in 2010, said in its second six-month report prepared last month and released on Aug 23 that despite public commitments from the national and international community to tackle corruption, no sufficient progress has been made to date, putting “the entire development and aid effort of the past 10 years at risk”.

The Committee, which was established after the need was identified at international conferences in Kabul and London for independent monitoring and evaluation of anti-corruption efforts in Afghanistan, has so far made 73 recommendations and 74 benchmarks in the areas of governance, prevention, and law enforcement affecting a variety Government and international institutions and organizations.

The Committee is mandated to identify effective development criteria for institutions, monitor and evaluate anti-corruption activities at the national level, international organizations and donor aid and to report to the President, Parliament, the people of Afghanistan and the international community.

The committee has six members – three senior anti-corruption experts appointed on the recommendation of the Government of Afghanistan and three others on recommendation of the United Nations on behalf of the international community. The 21-page report says UNAMA has “a central role” in the administration of aid and development in Afghanistan and is a natural organization to coordinate efforts in this regard.

Afghanistan has consistently ranked at the bottom of worldwide corruption indexes published annually by the global anti-corruption watchdog, the Transparency International. In its 2011 report, Afghanistan is only ahead of Myanmar, North Korea and Somalia out of 182 countries.

Although MEC enjoyed cooperation from most of the Afghan and international organizations, the report is highly critical of the High Office of Oversight (HOO), the prime institution that should be playing the lead anti-corruption role.

“Within the transparency and accountability framework of the country there are a number of institutions that have failed to implement the MEC recommendations and benchmarks… the HOO didn’t recognize the mandate of MEC and refuses to cooperate in trying to enhance the integrity of the governance structure.”

The report said MEC observed “the political will to enhance transparency and accountability of the potential revenue generation and collection system of the Government”. “While these institutions (the Ministry of Mines and the Afghan Customs Directorate) are far from free of corruption they have undertaken some of the reforms recommended by the MEC as well as other steps initiated on their own,” the report added.

The Committee has submitted a set of recommendations and benchmarks to the President’s Office, Afghan Parliament and the media. These recommendations and benchmarks are based on the findings of the Committee’s sixth visit to Afghanistan in July 2012. The report said 81 per cent of the MEC’s benchmarks have been fully or partially implemented.

Concerning transparency and accountability measures, the Committee has demanded further oversight of borders and strengthening the capacity of civil society institutions to fight against corruption.

To raise public awareness, the Committee has stressed upon introducing an anti-corruption training module in schools and universities. To cover the larger population, a nation-wide mobilization campaign has been recommended.

An Integrity Management System (IMS) has also been demanded for all contract-awarding process to assist institutions function more effectively and efficiently.

To ensure further administrative effectiveness, more clarification of the procedures for business licensing, public expenditures and setting terms for appointments of high-ranking public officials has been urged.

The final recommendation of Committee relates to the verification of tax exemptions for imported goods and prohibition of sub-contracting in infrastructure projects.