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Corruption can destroy the efforts of two decades in Afghanistan

By Wasil Ahmad Akhtar

Corruption in Afghanistan has affected both the public and private sector and it is broadly recognized as a key challenge for governance and rule of law. The Afghan government has made several commitments to address corruption but it has increased instead. Corruption has undermined the legitimacy of the government where people think that the government do not work for the good of all. It is equally disastrous as terrorism and narcotics and has increased the gaps between the citizens and government.

Almost all kind of corruption is practiced and occurring in Afghanistan. The administrative corruption in the form of bribery is directly affecting the people. Grand corruption, the large kickbacks in public sector decisions like the procurement is immensely affecting small business owners. The most important form is the corruption within institutions, the political appointments. It has created distrust on government credibility and legitimacy. In Afghanistan, patronage-based recruitments are the main form of corruption when it comes to the recruitment of managers, directors, deputy and even the cabinet members. A person is easily appointed on management and key leadership position if he/she is having the support from warlords and/or other political parties and recognized figures. The selling and buying of positions and bypassing the internationally accepted procedures for recruitment. The recruitment of unprofessional and less experienced staff, the distribution of key leadership positions on different ethnic groups without taking in to consideration the competency of the person has constantly contributed to the increased distrust on government actions and failing to achieve the planned objectives. This practice has affected the ethnic unity very badly and has fueled to discrimination in country.

The establishment of parallel institutions and departments like the anti-corruption deputy and Anti-Corruption Justice Center. Both are dealing with same kind of issues and the citizens like me are interested in seeing a positive change in the result many parallel establishments. The unclarity of roles and responsibilities of different government ministries and/or institutions such as water management by ministry of agriculture irrigation and livestock, ministry of energy and water and the newly established institution on water as an example.

The public servants are working just to make their supervisors happy and this continues to directors, deputy minister and even the cabinet members where they want to keep the president happy at the end. Mostly the leadership of public institutions are interested in activities with some kind of tangible results in a short period of time while the actual and meaningful reforms takes years and sometime generations to give results. They are focusing much on quick results-oriented activities to share with people through mass and social media. They have forgotten the real meaning of performing the job of being a public servant to deliver services to citizens. It is time to focus more on long term sustainable goals instead of mini projects. The leadership of state institutions are sharing their achievements with the people at the end of each fiscal year gathering in Government Media and Information Center. They are mostly sharing their internal developments and procedure made while an ordinary citizen is interested in to hear what services you have provided, any change and improvement made in services provided in past.

In rural districts, the disputes and conflicts are mostly going to the informal justice institutions like shura, jirga and to the anti-government armed groups. The cases are resolved in days with no or minimal chances wasting time and resources. The citizens trust more on informal justice institutions compared to formal.  Corruption contributes to the misuse of national resources by a small number of the population.

The effects include misallocation of talent given that connected rather than qualified individuals receive coveted positions, reduction in the effectiveness of international assistance and loss of tax revenue. The corruption may also lead honest and capable individuals to avoid public sector employment as highlighted by the IMF.

In order to satisfy the citizens and deliver the best services, it is necessary to avoid duplication and clarity on role and responsibilities.

The government should seriously consider the implementation of internationally accepted standards for human resource management in order to encourage right people on right places.

The state institution’s management should focus more on service delivery and reforms.

The government should reform the complex procedures, make it simple and meaningful in order to avoid corruption and wasting of time. The re-assessment is highly recommended to be conducted where to see the key staff competencies, capacity, available resources, the similar Tashkeel for provinces, contribution in national economy and finally the need of existence of the already established institutions.

The monitoring, supervision and complaint handling mechanism should be established in order to reach people complaints and meet people’s expectations. This will rebuild and strengthen people’s trust on government.

The writer is a young Afghan, master degree holder in Management of Development from Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences Wageningen, the Netherlands and have more than ten years of experience as a Manager, Coordinator and Director with international organizations and government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

(The materials are collected from desk study and my personal observation in Afghanistan including my opinion)

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