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Editorial: Govt’s sweetening-up technique

A recent report has revealed that the government has been obstructing the release of two important reports on the corruption and irregularities at the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and at the National Procurement Authority (NPA). Despite being finalized five months ago and sent to the Presidential Palace for discussion and assessment, there has been no update in this regard. The corruption findings and irregularities – about 50 cases of them within NPA and 80 at MoF – have been compiled by the primary anti-graft institution in Afghanistan, the Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC). The government’s sluggishness in this regard has raised the question of whether it has a strong will to fight corruption in actual fact. Some activists dub the government’s preventing the reports’ release as an intervention in independent institutions’ work. The situation takes a further surprise twist as there are official documents signed by President Ashraf Ghani showing that head of MEC’s secretariat was offered to assume the mantle of Afghanistan’s Customs Department – that too at a time when the reports had just been finalized. This act of sweetening up MEC’s authorities to stifle them – probably in a bid to let them go of the reports – has further blackened the government’s reputation. However, in a recent development, a few days after the report on the government’s obstruction of reports, Ghani called for reforms in Afghanistan’s public administration and governance. For this end, he ordered the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission head to complete his assessments and enforce reforms in the civil administration. Meanwhile, hard on the heels of that, some documents revealed that Ghani has also announced putting 68 customs officials at MoF, including three deputy ministers, on the exit-control list (ECL). It seems the MEC’s report has started achieving its purpose after all despite not being published. However, it’s still not officially known for what charges are these authorities being put on a travel ban list. At this juncture, the government should come clean and provide accountability to the Afghan masses regarding what’s going on and that why it cannot assess two reports in five months. The government is well-advised that its calls for reforms should not be solely symbolic but should be realized. Meanwhile, the vibrant Afghan media should continue to produce searing reports on the government’s dereliction of duty and mismanagement. Most importantly, exposes should be prepared by the independent Afghan, truth-seeking journalists and media outlets – who are the only potent force to stand between governments and total lack of accountability.

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