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INTEGRITY WATCH AFGHANISTAN


Newsletter
April 2016

 
TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND INTEGRITY
News:

Integrity Watch Urges Donors to Engage Stakeholders in Meaningful Aid Transparency Initiatives
Integrity Watch Afghanistan: Fighting Corruption through Collective Action
Afghanistan Loses Billions of Dollars Every Year in Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs)

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Spotlight: Why the creation of High Council Against Corruption (HCAC) is not enough to fight corruption in Afghanistan?
By Sayed Ikram Afzali, Integrity Watch Afghanistan Executive Director

Afghanistan suffers from “multi-organization sub-optimization” when it comes to fighting corruption. There are multiple institutions such as High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOOAC), Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC), and the newly established High Council Against Corruption (HCAC). However, not much has been achieved by the multiple institutions that have existed to fight corruption. While the HOOAC has miserably failed to fight corruption, the MEC has only provided hundreds of recommendations with not much effect. The HCAC was recently established by President Ghani to “facilitate coordination” of anti-corruption efforts of the government. The HCAC seems to have been established based on the National Procurement Commission model and is supposed to be chaired by the President, and twelve other government officials: the CEO, the two vice presidents, the Chief Justice, two of the senior advisors to the President, the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General, the Director Generals of the Supreme Audit Office, the HOOAC, the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Services Commission, and Independent Local governance Directorate.

Nevertheless, the HCAC is far from what the Afghan government had promised in London Conference to create a strong institutional design to fight corruption. The Afghan government published the Realizing Self-Reliance: Commitments to Reform and Renewed Partnership around the London Conference which states that, “We will form an independent anti-corruption commission with time-bound prosecutorial powers” drawing its membership from legal experts and civil society. Not only the government has not fulfilled its promises, it has not consulted major stakeholders such as the cabinet and the national assembly, let alone civil society and the general public on the creation of HCAC and anti-corruption strategy brief.

For the fight against corruption to be successful, besides strong political will, it requires that the government has clarity in terms of institutional arrangements to ensure that every institution has a clear mandate and plays a complementary role to the work of other institutions. Three pronged approach of prevention, prosecution, and public education are essential building blocks of any successful fight against corruption. However, in Afghanistan there is a huge confusion over the role of the mentioned institutions. In the meantime, some key aspect of fighting corruption has been ignored. The HOOAC’s prosecution powers were removed and was mandated to only register assets and simplify business procedures. There is still a huge overlap in prevention efforts while HOOAC, MEC, and civil service commission all have similar roles to simplify service delivery processes.

Nevertheless, the HCAC can play an important role in coordinating efforts at the highest level provided that it represents a broader range of stakeholders including the parliament and the civil society. In addition, the government should take additional steps to address the issue of institutional arrangements such as abolishing the HOOAC and establishing an independent anti-corruption commission with a mandate to coordinate anti-corruption plans of various ministry, share knowledge, tools, and guidance to various institutions in the fight against corruption, and provide independent oversight on prosecution of high level corruption cases. Due to high level of corruption in the justice institutions, current structures would need many years of reform before they deliver in the fight against corruption. Therefore, establishment of a Counter Corruption Justice Center based on the successful model of Counter Narcotics Justice Center would be a crucial step to ensure timely prosecution of high level corruption cases.

For more detailed discussion on the topics mentioned in this article, please stay tuned to Integrity Watch’s new research on institutional arrangements that would be published in the next few weeks.
 
 

Integrity Champions Training Builds Momentum to Boost Government Transparency and Accountability
Back in 2014, when Integrity Watch Afghanistan faced a funding crisis and saw the halt of the implementation of the organization’s projects, something extraordinary happened. Integrity Watch’s monitoring program mobilized, trained, and actualized the involvement of communities in the monitoring of the government’s projects. Monitors were local people who worked on a volunteer basis, and Integrity Watch provided these volunteers with only a tiny stipend (around $15 USD monthly) to cover the cost of communication (for reporting issues) and transportation. As insignificant as it may sound, this amount was critical to empower locals to continue their monitoring efforts and to be effective in resolving issues at the local level. When the financial crisis hit Integrity Watch in 2014, the organization cut this tiny stipend and monitoring activities were expected to soon cease entirely as a result. Contrary to expectations, some communities continued their monitoring and reporting on issues. This phenomenon triggered the idea of the Integrity Champions project.

In order to ensure sustainability of monitoring activities, Integrity Watch developed a series of trainings for the first generation of trainers of local monitors called “Integrity Champions.” With funding received from the EU, Integrity Watch will soon launch its first phase of trainings for this first generation of Integrity Champions (ICs), who will subsequently get involved in the monitoring process while training the next generation of ICs. This chain response will continue to expand the self-sufficient and independent network of monitors in local communities, creating the pressure and momentum needed for change.

Integrity Watch developed comprehensive training materials for the first generation of local monitors’ trainers with the assistance of Integrity Action (an international partner of Integrity Watch working in 12 countries). Integrity Watch provincial staff also attended the first phase of trainings to prepare for the actual launch of the project. Khan Zaman Amarkhail, the manager of Integrity Watch Integrity Building Unit, who is in charge of the implementation of this project, emphasizes the significance of this initiative in promoting the culture of oversight. “In order to safeguard the integrity of the government, citizens must play their own role. They must be present everywhere, any time, to ensure the government complies with its pledges to the people,” Amarkhail said.

Despite some concerns about participants keeping up with the same level of enthusiasm throughout the end of this project, Ms. Zohreh Aminpoor, Integrity Watch’s provincial staff in Herat, expresses hope for the future. “The key to sustainability of our success is transforming a ‘project’ to a ‘process’ in which people reach a deep understanding about their rights and the impact of their involvement in oversight,” she expressed.
To make anti-corruption efforts consistent and coordinated, Integrity Watch will set up a call center to provide technical advice to ICs who face corruption incidents. The ICs will also receive close mentoring assistance, both in their monitoring activities and in recruiting future generations of ICs. The data they will be collecting will be made accessible to public through Integrity Watch database system.
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Integrity Watch Staff and Local Communities Won’t Hear “No” When It Comes to Accessing a Project Information
When people tried to access the information of a contract regarding the extension of an all girls’ school, Gabriel in Herat, their request was stymied by a donor and a construction company. Integrity Watch local monitors identified major problems in the construction process, yet without access they were unable to follow up on those problems with decision makers.

Gabriel School works in 4 shifts, with each shift hosting around 4,000 students from distant villages and neighborhoods. The school building cannot fit this large number of students, and presently many of the classes are being held in the schoolyard. This situation has created many health hazards for the students. Barak Institution provided 290,000 Afs (the equivalent of $4,100 USD) for the construction of 5 additional classrooms. Kashaneh Construction Company has undertaken the construction process.

Following this, local communities contacted Integrity Watch staff for help. Access to contract information in general has been the main challenge for Integrity Watch local monitors undertaking Community Based Monitoring of Infrastructure. Engineer Ghafar Sidiqee, Integrity Watch’s Quality Control Engineer, contacted authorities in the Ministry of Education and discussed the problem with them. Mr. Sidiqee also discussed this issue with other stakeholders, such as school authorities and influential people within the community. However, he was unable to get hold of the donor for this project. He was told by Barak staff that neither he nor other local community members could have access to the email address and phone number of the person in charge of this project.

Finally, Engineer Ghafar decided to call local community members and set up a group to go to the construction site. There, the group asked to meet with a construction company representative to get a copy of the contract. Engineer Ghafar explained the purpose of the visit and the role of Integrity Watch’s monitoring program in ensuring the integrity of the construction process and the quality of the final building. First, the monitors were told the contract was in English and local people would not understand it. After continued persistence, the organization finally released a copy of the contract to the group. Subsequently, the contract was translated in Dari and shared with community members.

As a result of Integrity Watch and local community efforts, the construction company agreed to leave a copy of the contract on site and to allow free access to visitors and the public. The company also promised to change some low-quality materials with better ones as stipulated within the contract. Once more, active engagement, persistence, and determination of the community changed the scene in favor of transparency and integrity.
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National Integrity System Assessment
Afghanistan 2015
The government of Afghanistan has made clear its commitment to fighting corruption through a comprehensive reform agenda. To support these efforts, Transparency International and Integrity Watch Afghanistan have conducted in-depth research to establish a complete picture of the country’s institutional landscape with regard to integrity, accountability and transparency. This report represents an important milestone. For the first time, there is a study that covers all branches of government, the public and private sectors, the media, and civil society to analyse the vulnerabilities of Afghanistan to corruption as well as the effectiveness of its national anti-corruption efforts. Crucially, the assessment was carried out in close consultation with the key anti-corruption actors from government, civil society and other relevant sectors. It aims to serve as a springboard for much needed anti-corruption reform in the country. To download the full report click here.
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Meet Tamanna, an Integrity Watch Local Monitor in Community Based Monitoring of Trials Program
A few years ago, Integrity Watch Afghanistan launched a program in some of Afghanistan’s provinces in which people were mobilized and educated to get involved in the monitoring of several sectors that were ranked, in multiple surveys conducted by Integrity Watch and other institutions, as the most corrupt institutions in Afghanistan. In such monitoring campaigns, women in particular have played a central role.

At the beginning, most of the women monitors were doubtful that their monitoring activities would have any influence on government authorities in a way that would make them accountable to citizens. The persistence and creativity of these women, together with the support they’ve received from families and from Integrity Watch, changed this doubt to belief.

One local monitor in the community based monitoring of trials program, Tawana, is a graduate of sharia studies. She had observed numerous times that judges did not wear official uniform during a court session, that the accused and his/her defense attorney were not given a chance to state their argument, and that the prosecutor was frequently absent during court sessions.

When community based monitoring of a trial takes place, due to the principal on the independence of the judiciary, Integrity Watch local monitors are limited to procedural safeguards and do not go into substance. According to Tawana, in the beginning, her role was neither recognized nor taken seriously. Nowadays however, she’s frequently asked at the end of many court sessions if she has been satisfied with the way the session was handled. At the beginning of the monitoring program, court sessions were being held at the offices of judges. Now, due to the persistent follow up of people like Tawana, most of the sessions are held in the official court room. Creating this type of dialogue between local monitors and court officials has been a big achievement toward improving the quality of the judiciary process in Afghanistan.

Achieving transparency and accountability in Afghanistan is a challenging issue that requires participation of all people from all layers of society. Integrity Watch Afghanistan actively endeavors to mobilize change makers from all backgrounds who have played a critical role in the success of the monitoring programs.

 






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

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