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Feature: Afghan Govt’s Reluctant and Selective Approach to Fight Corruption

Corruption has become an incurable disease in government offices and in large numbers of private institutions in Afghanistan. This menace has been so institutionalized that all national and international efforts to reduce it have failed in the last two decades. Afghanistan has always been one of the most corrupt countries in the world, along with Sudan, North Korea and Somalia.
According to reports, $1 billion a year is being wasted on Afghan customs alone. About AFN150 million have been disbursed from the budget allocated for the fight against corona in Afghanistan only in four provinces. The distribution of bread to the needy during the coronavirus pandemic has been a pity. The government, with its so-called efforts to combat corruption, is unable to prevent it even in the collection of its revenues. Although national procurement authority has been set up to address corruption, reports indicate that the authority has not been able to prevent corruption in procurement processes and to ensure transparency.
Corruption is so pervasive that bribes are demanded in order to do day to day activities in the offices. In 2018, the people of Afghanistan paid $1.65 billion in bribes across Afghanistan, according to Transparency International. The bribe has now reached $2 billion a year, and corruption has penetrated so deep within our institutions that a number of government revenue-generating posts are traded.
In 2017, the Afghan government developed a national anti-corruption strategy. Offices such as the High Council for Combating Corruption, the Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC), the Deputy Attorney General for Anti-Corruption and some others were formed to fight corruption. Also, the Office of the Special Inspector General has been established with the aim of effectively combating administrative corruption. In addition, institutions such as MEC have been set up to fight against corruption in government offices. Moreover, there are institutions like Transparency International that have their own methods of monitoring corruption and reporting on it. Despite the activities of all these institutions, corruption is rampant in the country, and people are disappointed with government institutions to ensure transparency. The Afghan people are witnessing that the corrupt people remain out of the reach of the law, and even a number of individuals whose corruption cases have not yet been clarified are being re-appointed to important government positions.
The question that arises is why the government is incapable of preventing corruption. According to national and international anti-corruption agencies, the immunity of high-ranking government officials, members of parliament from prosecutions and lawsuits is one of the main reasons for the persistence of corruption.
Experience has shown that the Afghan government has been selective in combating the corruption, and corruption cases have not been fully investigated and the culprits have not been brought to justice. The Interior Ministry’s Internal Audit Office maintains documents of corruption in its offices in collusion with ministers or on the basis of relations with corrupt individuals, and these cases are not sent to the prosecutor’s office. Even some of these corrupt professionals are influential in the Supreme Court, where their cases of corruption are preserved, and the corrupt are protected from prosecution in this way.
Thus, the fight against corruption is not possible with slogans and selective approach. This requires practical action and a responsible approach to prosecute the perpetrators of corruption at all levels.
President Ashraf Ghani has repeatedly said that the government’s priority is to fight corruption. This is a slogan that has been chanted many times by government leaders over the past six years. In practice, however, corruption has not diminished and there has been no serious confrontation with the perpetrators.
Our position among the most corrupt countries in the world reflects the fact that we are failing in the fight against corruption and that the Afghan government and the country’s president are primarily responsible for this failure. The president of the country who should be leading any initiative against corruption has thrown arms, and seem to be neglecting the issue altogether. For the president, the consideration for prolongation of power and efforts to gain more and more authority without accountability have been the main objective of leadership.
In the past year, media displayed three lengthy documentaries and investigative reports on government corruption that have not been addressed yet. The reports showed that corruption ranges from the office of the President and the Ministry of Defense to various institutions. Following the release of a report by Tolo News on former finance minister Homayoun Qayyumi, the Senate recently introduced Qayyumi to the Attorney General’s Office, but no one took the report seriously or prosecuted Qayyumi as per the procedures of law. In another similar case, Abdul Razzaq Wahidi, the former Minister of Communications and Information Technology, was prosecuted and sent to prison, whereas the former finance minister, Aklil Hakimi, accused of similar charges, was bestowed with the highest performance award by the president himself. Therefore, as long as the fight against corruption is not fought with true intentions, confrontations are selective, and some of the culprits remain above the law, there are no chances of success against this menace. At the same time, the claimed fight against terrorism in such a scenario will only remain a slogan or a day dream.
(Sahar News)

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