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Editorial: Corrupt diplomats?

Corruption is a menace that continues to bedevil war-weary Afghanistan. Earlier there were reports of embezzlement in the COVID-19 pandemic funds by the relevant ministry and now the reconstruction of a mere 70-meter-long boundary wall at the Afghan Embassy to the US has cost over $1.8 million. This comes as an earlier offer of $88,000 for the project was rejected by the embassy. Considering the staggering figure, the wall seems to be built at a 20.74 times higher cost than what the initial company proposed and each meter-square has cost 8,694 US dollars. Meanwhile, it is said that the cost of the perimeter wall would have been enough to purchase a complete building a few kilometers away from the diplomatic area. Amid all this, the Afghan Ambassador to Washington is accused of paving the way for corruption. On the other hand, ironically, the bids of the project had been examined by the National Procurement Commission (NPC) and the final price was approved accordingly. Considering the core mandate of NPC – which is controlling public expenditure and decreasing corruption – the commission becomes under serious fire for its negligence. It seems the NPC itself is full of corrupt people when such an unreasonable higher expense slips their eyes. Meanwhile, paving way for nepotism and having a complete disregard for the national treasury reflects badly on the embassy’s leadership. It is said that replacing the person responsible for the boundary wall project with someone else close to the ambassador caused controversy and then the president had to fire him. Corruption has taken root to an extent in Afghans that even foreign missions are now filled with corrupt people. All this is because of the lack of a proper regulatory body to keep them in check and make them face justice. And if there’s any such authority, it’s also swamped by tentacles of corruption. Considering the circumstances, the SIGAR’s claim that corruption exists at virtually every level of the Afghan government, including security and civil services, is not something unfounded. At this juncture, it’s a shame for Afghanistan to be known as one of the most corrupt nations as even diplomats are indulged in this menace now. The Afghan government needs to clarify this issue and explain why there seems to be a systematic facilitation for corruption instead of efforts to combat it.

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