KABUL (Pajhwok): About 25 types of office equipment have been purchased by the Independent Electoral Complaint Commission (IECC), which paid 3.6 million afghanis more than market prices, Pajhwok Afghan News has learnt. Experts say that purchasing goods at higher than the market prices indicates embezzlement. The Penal Code suggests different punishments for embezzlers, based on the nature their crimes.
A copy of the report from the commission’s Internal Audit Department of, which is responsible for investigating such cases, shows the items purchased for commissioners, officers, consultants and newly-hired technical staff include different types of desks, chairs, air purifiers, air conditioners, water filters, television sets, carpet and sofa sets. The items were purchased for about eight million afghanis. Based on the market rates, these items can be purchased for 4.3 million afghanis, but the electoral watchdog paid 3.6 million afghanis more than the normal market price.
In addition, a number of other items were not included in the list, but they are part the contract. The report alleges logistics officials have not performed their duty properly. Under Articles 104 and 105 of the Labor Law, the pricing board, shortlists the boards of companies, general managers of contact facilitation and procurement officers are held accountable. Based on the law, they have caused damage to public property.
According to the audit report, “13 meeting tables for six and 10 people, 50 metal chairs, three additional office desks, 20 domestically-produced desks, 12 couch seat. three small desks, 10 water purifiers, 25 water dispensers/filters, 13 TV sets, 10 air conditioners, 12 air purifiers, 1,200 meters of carpet and 20 sockets are the items purchased for IECC. The purchases were made in line with the proposal No. 1514, dated 10/06/2019 and the order No. 6355, issued in the first quarter of the fiscal year 1399.
The bidding featured Wasil Ehsan, Koh, Karim Tower, Ekam Saba and Jawad Rahimi and Baradaran Logistics Services Companies. Although the items, 20 pieces of furniture, bids from relevant companies were not invited and finally a contract was signed with Rahimi & Baradaran firms, the report reads.
Examples of price differences: The Internal Audit Department of reveals a six-person meeting table was purchased for 76,000 afghanis, but its price in the market was 28,000 afghanis. Thus each desk and chair cost 48,000 afghanis more than the market price. The report said the price of a 10-person meeting table along with seats was 59,000 afghanis in the market, but the commission purchased it for 113,000 afghanis.
On the other hand, an eight-seat sofa set for the IECC head was purchased for 255,000 afghanis, while its price in the market was 150,000 afghanis. In this way an extra 105,000 afghanis were paid for buying this item. The report added a 43-inch TV set was purchased for 26,500 afghanis, but it market was 12,000 afghanis. Similarly, a 65-inch TV was bought for 62,000 afghanis, while its price was 22,500 afghanis in the market.
Views of auditors: The report says: “Considering file documents, contracts worth 7949650 afghanis for 25 types of different items, including furniture and electronic equipment, were signed with Jawad Rahimi & Baradaran trading companies. “IECC members had handed over the file for the internal audit for transparency and accountability in purchasing and reviewing the operations of the procurement department.”
The Internal Audi Boards, with full honesty, trustworthiness and accuracy, had estimated the prices of the 25 items — based on market quotations at 4307100 afghanis and this shows a difference of 3657550 afghanis. Meanwhile, 10 items were submitted to the commission and the amount of (1074380) afghani by remittance number (345), has been transferred to the contract account in 1398 fiscal year, and the remaining amount transferred next year. The difference between the contract price and the audit pricing is (3657550) afghani.
The report said the outcome of the investigation was submitted to the IECC leadership –everything in the field of guidance was obligatory in accordance with the law, orders, rules and procedures. Zuhra Bayan Shinwari, head of the IECC, wrote at the end of the report submitted by the commission secretariat head, wrote: “The report and the opinion of the Internal Audit Board are referred to you for implementation in order to take immediate and urgent action in light of the law…”
Purchase at higher rates is embezzlement: Wadir Safi, a legal expert and professor at Kabul University, said buying goods at a rate higher than the market prices represented embezzlement. Safi suggested the individuals involved in embezzlement should be fined and imprisoned in accordance with the Penal Code, in addition to the payment of the amount misappropriated.
Shahla Fareed, another legal expert and professor at Kabul University, called the purchase of goods at rates higher the market price a criminal offense. She said the law provided different punishments for embezzlers based on their crimes. Criticising the government’s failure to curb corruption, she said, according to a global investigation, the Afghan government had failed to reduce corruption and had made no progress in this regard. Shahla claimed most of the people who committed corruption did not follow the law and violated it.
Law on embezzlement: Chapter 2 of Article 389 of the Penal Code says: “Whenever a public service or non-governmental organisation or a private entity was obliged to provide a benefit to the administration in a contract or measurement or consolidation or acquisition of a customs product, tax or government rights or related authority, if it intentionally infringes or disrupts the rights of the relevant authority in its favor or in favor of another person, its act shall be punished as embezzlement, with regard to the damage to the public interest, in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.” Also, the fourth paragraph of Article 392 of the Penal Code says: “If the embezzled amount is more than one million to 10 million afghanis, the person will be awarded the maximum imprisonment.”
Response from IECC: Chaman Shah Etimadi, head of the IECC Secretariat, told Pajhwok the case was being investigated and had not been finalised yet. He added the accused had arranged for their defence. However, it remains unclear whether not the internal audit findings would be registered in the future. He said whenever the case was finalised; the commission would decide on whether to force them to pay compensation or introduce them to judicial organs or fire them.