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INTEGRITY WATCH AFGHANISTAN


Newsletter
June 2016


TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND INTEGRITY
Integrity Watch Afghanistan Team Wishes You a Happy Eid
News:

Govt's Achievements In Fighting Endemic Corruption Reviewed
Corruption overshadows nation trust: MEC
MEHWAR: Corruption at Ministry of Public Heath Discussed
Corruption monitoring groups said that the Afghan government's counter-corruption policies will dominate the agenda at the upcoming NATO heads-of-state summit in Warsaw.
Integrity Watch Afghanistan published its first quarterly magazine!

 
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Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director
Warsaw Summit and Afghanistan’s future

NATO members will gather in less than a week time in Warsaw to discuss, among other things but most importantly, support to Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). NATO members have already expressed commitment to continue similar level of support as in the past for the next three years through 2020. Therefore, securing international support for ANDSF is not a challenge for the Afghan government in the short term - thanks to President Ghani’s recent anti-corruption efforts. Nevertheless, the major reason behind NATO members’ continuation of support to ANDSF seems to be the fear that instability in Afghanistan would create further insecurity and migration challenges for the West.
The fear of instability will not diminish only by pouring billions of dollars of tax payers’ money into ANDSF that heavily suffers from institutionalized corruption and misuse. Ghost soldiers is an eminent problem. Reports indicate that actual number of soldiers might be less than half of what is officially reported. Unmerited appointments and unfair promotions are common with the police and army. Reports also indicate that lucrative positions such as procurement management, logistics, and personnel management as well as positions that can extract bribes from population or generate income from mining and drugs trade are sold to corrupt individuals or are given away to corrupt elite as bribes for political favors. It is also reported that senior official and members of parliament are involved in such practices. The impact such high level and pervasive corruption is immense: lowering morale of soldiers, diminishing public confidence in the security and defense forces, and allowing malign forces to continue to benefit from the economy of war.
Although the Afghan government has taken steps such as creating oversight on the procurement system and establishing the Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC) to address the issue of corruption, a lot more remains to be achieved. Defense and security agencies must ensure strong internal and external oversight and accountability. Such measure should include publication of key procurement and other documents such as contracts, budgets, and audit reports. Audit and investigative capacity of ANDSF needs serious improvement to be able to identify, track, and report corrupt practices. Appointments and promotions should be standardized and only people of proven integrity should be put in key positions that are vulnerable to corruption. Finally, the ACJC should end the culture of impunity by prosecuting high level corruption cases in the defense and security sector in the lead up to the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan later this year. While the Afghan government has been able to secure support for the defense and security sector, attracting the much needed support for development sector will be a huge challenge without addressing the issue of corruption. The Afghan government must address corruption as a threat to national security and prioritize the fight against corruption. This would also build public and donor confidence.
The international community cannot afford to continue business as usual. The international community should work with the Afghan government during the upcoming Warsaw Summit to set reform and anti-corruption benchmarks for ANDSF. Such benchmarks must go beyond box-ticking efforts of the past. The international community should not simplify bringing stability with providing financial and technical support to ANDSF only. More importantly, peace talks to end the conflict through peaceful means, governance with integrity to ensure effective delivery of services, and development projects to create jobs for Afghans are critical for the long-term stability of not only Afghanistan but the region and the world. Therefore, all regional and international actors, together with the Afghan people, must share the responsibility of securing and stabilizing Afghanistan.


 

Balkh, a Strategic Province to Implement Monitoring of Construction Projects; Achievements and Challenges
Interview with Mukhtar Ahmadi, Balkh Provincial Coordinator for Integrity Watch Afghanistan



Balkh province holds a unique status from the point of view of its historical position and ethnic composition. Balkh has always been the focus of attention of the other provinces and the central government; this has both benefited and harmed the area. The province is also commercially significant. The donor and private sector investment in Balkh has resulted in the growth of the construction projects. Internal investors have played an active role in the construction projects here; while the provinces own enormous revenues have factored heavily into the building boom.

The community based monitoring program of construction projects was implemented in November 2009 in Balkh. Initially, the government officials were insisting that there is no need for public involvement. They were also voicing their doubts as to our legal competence to serve in the capacity of a monitoring authority.  Finally, after three sessions of discussion and deliberation, they were convinced. 

The next step was mobilizing the people. For this purpose, we visited the local councils. There, nobody believed they had the right to become involved.  Some of them even refused cooperation in any such undertaking.  They would say, for example, that fighting such systemic corruption was not possible. “We (the public) can’t do that. We don’t have the authority to oversee the government” one local council member said.  And they refused to believe that our organization could do it either. We told them that they should not imagine any grandioso approach to fighting corruption but that the effort should begin at a very basic level--we must eventually start from some point.  By 2009, the idea of public oversight had emerged as a necessary and logical solution for improving the quality of the construction projects. In some cases, the government, after admitting their own lack of resources, have asked for our involvement in monitoring these projects.  The government is now taking far more serious action against substandard building practices. In some cases, it has resorted to destruction of poor-quality buildings and prosecution of those responsible for violations.  Now, both the government and the companies share more information with the public. More interestingly, recently other public networks have emerged to join the campaign against corruption in the construction projects.

There are many examples where local communities played a critical role in improving quality of construction material or even improving design of the infrastructure projects.

Currently, we have around 60 elected local monitors and oversee about 30 projects in Balkh province. When participation in election of local monitors is high, the local monitors become more consistent and motivated in their monitoring activities.  On several occasions, many local community members have appreciated the role Integrity Watch has played over the years.

 

Effective Contact with Donor Could Solve Problems in Construction Projects
Story from the Field

In 2015, UN-Habitat (with the funding received from Japanese government) decided to sponsor the construction of a sewage canal along Doctor Fazli Street. This neighborhood is one of the most populated areas in the city of Herat and the lack of an effective sewage system had created lots of environmental issues. As a result, many families-- especially their children --suffered from infectious diseases.  They also suffered from flood and other problems brought on by the rainy seasons. UN-Habibtat allocated approximately 66,400 USD to this project. In the initial stages of the project, Integrity Watch local monitors identified serious problems in the construction process. For example, the quality of the concrete used did not meet the specifications mentioned in the contract, casting was poor and also underage children worked at the construction site as laborers.

Local monitors visited the construction sites a couple of times but could not find any representative from the construction company.  On one occasion, they managed to find an official from the construction company with whom the problems were discussed. However, no action was taken by the company to address any of the issues in question. Finally, following the recommendation of the Integrity Watch staff, community members set up a meeting where they discussed the problems.  Community members decided to visit the site once more to speak with decision makers.

This time engineers from UN-Habitat were present at the site.  People used this opportunity and openly discussed the issues with them. Hearing these complaints, the engineer got very upset and instructed the company to halt construction until the problems are resolved. UN-Habitat engineers contacted the company and asked them to send a representative to the site. When the construction company representative arrived, a UN-Habitat engineer asked the representative to explain to the people why their concerns had not been addressed. Additionally, UN-Habitat engineers warned the company against the continued use of child labor, assuring them that the company would be penalized.

The construction company representative apologized for not taking necessary action to resolve the issues in a timely manner.  He promised to immediately take measures to address the identified problems. Following this, UN-Habitat engineers specifically instructed the construction company to demolish some parts of the constructed sewage system that were substandard and to rebuild them, using the grade of materials agreed upon under the contract. They also issued a warning against the use of child labor.

This project will be completed and will be ready for use by the community next month. It is foreseen that the new sewage system will end many problems and infectious epidemics. Overall 1200 families, including more than 9000 people will benefit from this project directly or indirectly.

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SENIOR APPOINTMENTS AND CORRUPTION WITHIN KABUL CITY POLICE
A Preliminary Review
Over $15 billion has been spent on, and many countries have taken part in, reforming the Afghanistan National Police (ANP) since 2003 with the aim of forming a professional, accountable and effective police force.1 Although the ANP grew to a large force with almost 150,000 personnel, it is viewed as “inadequate”, “riddled with corruption”, and the “weak link in the security chain.”2 Its ability to enforce the rule of law and protect Afghan citizens in the absence of the international forces is questionable. The present report follows up from a similar one, produced by IWA in 2014 on Police appointments in Afghanistan. Like that projects, this one aims at examining one of the key pillars of police reform in Afghanistan, that is, dynamics of senior appointments within the Ministry of Interior and the Afghanistan National Police. While the previous report covered eight provinces, this one focuses on Kabul city. It looks at corruption and nepotism in senior appointments, which are inimical to the accountability of the police force and, consequently, to the rule of law in Afghanistan. As the international forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan and the demanding tasks of protecting Afghan citizens are also laying on the shoulders of the ANP, the research project intends to shed light on this key aspect of police reform and provide insights for policy makers and the Afghanistan government.

Kabul city has been chose not only because of the obvious importance of the capital, but also because Kabul has been at the centre of police reform efforts since 2008. While previous police reform assistances concentrated on police forces in the provinces, the international community over the past six years focused on reforming the Ministry of Interior (MoI) since it is responsible for management, oversight, and supervision of the ANP throughout the country.3 Given the direct supervision and oversight of the MoI over Kabul police, Kabul city police could be viewed as the prototype of Afghan police force and harbinger of how Afghanistan’s national police will look like after MoI strengthens its oversight and supervision of the ANP outside Kabul.

The previous project created a database to centralize the information collected through qualitative, interviews on 35 individuals middle rank to senior police officials. The study collected limited quantitative and/or demographic data, which will be included in the database and analysis. The study looked at the officials’ past, qualifications and reputation, current affiliation and the reasons for which they were appointed. The sample was comprehensive enough to provide the very first study of such kind, allowing us to draw a picture of appointment practices and of perceptions of corruption related to them and what all this means for governance and state building in the context of transition.

To download the full report, click here.

Integrity Watch Continues to Fight Corruption in Afghanistan Extractive Sector


Interview with Asadullah Zemarai, Integrity Watch Afghanistan CBM-E Manager

In 2011, the program of Community Based Monitoring of Extractives was launched.  It aimed at mobilizing citizens and engaging them as communities in monitoring the activities taking place in their midst.  This effort set out to raise their capability to become effective participants in the oversight process. We started our work from Mes-Aynak in Logar province. In Mes-Aynak, we had a few concerns.  These concerns ranged from the hazards which the  ongoing mining activities imposed on environment --especially on the water supply –to the social impacts of such mining activities. In order to deal with these concerns, we provided training and motivational events which encouraged communities to mobilize and begin their own monitoring activities. By 2012, our program had expanded to additional mines in Kabul, Baghlan, Panjshir, Samangan and Nangarhar. Unfortunately, because of such obstacles as:  the lack of security, illegal extraction, interference of government authorities, war lords and other influential people, armed groups, MPs and other contractual conflicts, weaknesses in the government's oversight mechanism in the extractive sector, the non-existence of government collaboration with Civil Society Organizations and the shortage of resources,  results achieved by the program were limited.

Considering these challenges, we revised our program strategy and focused on four criteria to continue our efforts in the extractives sector. We decided to only monitor the mines which were accessible, had adequate security and had considerable economic value. These had also to be mining sites we could access through existing Integrity Watch supporters such as provincial offices and staff. More importantly we decided to implement our monitoring programs in mining sites where a legal contract exists between the mining companies and the government. Presently, we work at a chromite mining site in Lalandar and cement mining site in Ghori-Baghlan. Soon, we plan to move to a cement mining site in Jabal-Seraj.

Our community based monitoring programs comprise of local people who monitor on a voluntarily basis.  Currently, our monitoring process is going according to plans. Our program is being implemented at two mining sites.  Our local monitors have received quality training and are coordinated with government. The quality of mining activities has improved and gives rise to optimism vis-a-vis the impact of monitoring on conditions in the mining sector.  We have ten local monitors and expect the number to increase by five as soon as we initiate our program in Jabal-Seraj.

We are planning to monitor as many of the thirty-eight mines as possible where MOMP has signed a contract with the mining companies. Nowadays, there are three types of activities going on in Afghanistan's mining sector.  Engaging local communities in the monitoring of mining activities not only empowers local communities to demand their rights but also enables the central government to have regular external oversight on the mining operation. Monitoring by local people is hoped to prevent conflict and stop misuse by malign actors.  







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Integrity Watch Afghanistan · Kabul, Afghanistan · Kabul 00000 · Afghanistan

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