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Corruption rampant, involves top Afghan officials: Watchdogs

KABUL (Tolo News): Corruption has reached new highs in the government’s financial institutions, said the Afghan anti-corruption organizations, despite pledges by the Afghan government to fight the trend.

Officials from the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Investment (ACCI) said that the government has failed in its anti-graft strategy, stating that in recent years the allegations of corruption against high level government officials have increased despite President Ashraf Ghani’s pledge to not tolerate the plundering of the country’s assets and revenues. “Extortion and the involvement of strongmen have increased, the government does not bother to confront them, the most dangerous thing is that sometimes there has been the involvement of high level officials, even at the level of minister,” said Khan Jan Alokizay, the head of ACCI.

“In the area of implementing the law, the Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Center has failed to apply its commitments to combat corruption,” said Maiwand Rouhani, the head of the secretariat of the Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC). Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) has said that despite the Afghan government’s numerous commitments to the international community to combat corruption, no practical action has been taken to fight the trend.

“The commitments which were made by the Afghan government towards combating corruption in the Brussels Conference–they remained limited only to changing the procedures and laws. Until now, no significant change has occurred in curbing corruption, rule of law or in improving the lives of the people,” said Naser Taimoori, a researcher at Integrity Watch Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, a number of lawmakers in Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga (the lower house of parliament) have said that the government has failed to comply with its commitments to fighting corruption. “The ratio of graft is on the rise, if you want to act practically against corruption, then you have to tackle it at a higher level,” said Mohammad Azim Kibrzani, a member of parliament.

This comes a week after delegates at the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) also called on the Afghan government to take serious measures against corruption. But, the Afghan government has said that it has completed 80 percent of its commitments to fighting graft.

At the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan in 2016, the Afghan government pledged to the international community to take solid action against corruption to ensure the flow of international aid to Afghanistan for another four years. Last month, The Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) said that the Office of the Attorney General (AGO) has failed to take legal action against high-ranking government officials, particularly former cabinet ministers, for their involvement in corruption.

The MEC officials also said that even the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Center (ACJC) has not proved effective in fighting the endemic corruption in Afghanistan. From the six cabinet ministers, only one of them was held accountable, MEC said.

Farooq Wardak, the ex-minister of education, Mohammad Jawad Paikar, the former acting minister of housing, and Humayoun Qayoumi, the ex-minister of finance, are among the high-ranking officials who have not been prosecuted for their involvement in corruption. After assuming office in 2014, President Ghani vowed to put anti-graft among his top priorities. But no action was taken against major cases of corruption involving ex-government officials, including Ghani’s former minister of finance Humayoun Qayoumi.

There are allegations of corruption against some ex-governors and military officials, however, no legal action has been taken against these officials. This comes as the Ministry of Economy recently confirmed that 90 percent of Afghans are living below the poverty line.

According to the ministry, families with seven to eight members that have less than Afs35,000 monthly income are considered to be living below the poverty line. Officials of the ministry said that along with the need for food and shelter, the need for health care and education has also been considered in the criteria to determine the poverty line in the country.

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