Editor in Chief: Dr. Hussain Yasa Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Parliament vs Government

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Parliament vs Government

In addition to numerous crises, Kabul is witnessing a new type of contrast between government and parliaments are forming. Within three days, the Afghan parliament has voted to dismiss six ministers including Farida Momand, the minister of higher education dismissed on Monday. This is an unprecedented move that underlined the fragility of National Unity government.  All six were fired due to shortcomings in their performance and their failure to spend all allocated budgetary funds on time while the country is severely suffering from the worst condition. The dismissals are being in accordance with provisions in the Afghan constitution that give parliament the power to sack ministers if they fail to perform their job accordance with the law.
This happens at a time of fragility for the Afghan government and in spite of pleas from the president and chief executive to halt votes that threaten an already fragile Western-backed government. The President, Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah had also met with a delegation from parliament on Saturday night where they asked the members of parliament to delay their summons process. But the Parliament did not retreat its stance after the last week announcement that it would summon all ministers from Saturday over their failure to spend their development budgets.
Former rivals, president Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have presided over an uneasy alliance that also includes the critic vice president General Rashid Dostum and has featured regular rows between the main leaders. Add to this the fact that the Taliban insurgency is threatening security across Afghanistan, and the move creates further pressure on national unity government, which has been mired in infighting ever since it was set up following the disputed election of 2014. Patched together with US backing after accusations of electoral fraud on both sides, the Kabul government was supposed to have overseen fresh parliamentary elections and a constitutional grand council to re-establish political legitimacy. But a two-year deadline has come and gone with none of the promised accomplished, leaving question marks over the future of the government at a time when political uncertainty is already being stoked by rising ethnic tensions.
The Afghan Presidential Palace “ARG” has criticized the dismissal of the ministers and said that the summons process should delay for the good of country and also until the ministers provide the necessary information on the expenditure of the development budget. President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah emphasize MPs that their decision will deal a huge political blow to the government at this critical time and urged them to stop the process. But MPs think that the posts of ministers are more political positions rather than being operational. The ministries can be smoothly run by deputy ministers. So the law must be implemented against lawlessness and poor performance. The government must not interfere to legal jurisdiction of legislature.
Because of deteriorating situation of country and high dissatisfactions with the performance of NUG, it seems that other ministers are due to face the similar confidence votes. Most of MPs persist that this is the right of parliament and they will use it and will not let the government politicize this process.
On the other hand, Development budget low-consumption has long been a major problem in the country. Many ministers of the previous government also could not spend more than 50% of their development budget. The key problem of the less budget utilization lies in its factors. One of these factors is the low capacity of the ministers and their teams; however, there are also other causes which should not be disregarded. 
Afghan ministries and independent budgetary units have two types of development budget: discretionary and non-discretionary. Non-discretionary budget is one main factor of the failure of ministers to spend despite having the essential capacity and plans.  Another major problem is the untimely provision of funds by the donors. Furthermore, another thing that added the problems thereof as of the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG) is the National Procurement Commission (NPC). Although NPC was established to bring in transparency in public contracts, there is a lot of criticism about the nature of its work and decisions. It is said that delay in major public contracts by NPC is the major cause for the low-consumption of the development budget this year. During their impeachment, the minister also complained about government bureaucracy; however, they do not have the nerve to specifically name the National Procurement Commission. 
The low development budget consumption doubtlessly hurts the country, especially in the current critical situation where the unemployment rate is record high. If the development budget is properly spent on development affairs, it can create a lot of jobs in addition to having other economic benefits. However, the problem of budget low-consumption may not be solved merely by disqualifying all the ministers at once. They must have monitored all performance of government very strictly, both in terms of quality and quantity, before reaching the critical steps. Now that they have reached this step; they need to decide carefully and also proceed to reform the factors that hold back the process, one of which is the low capacity of ministers and lack of meritocracy culture in the recruitment process of ministries. Regardless of other problems, the dismissal of all ministers will further slow down government affairs because it is not expected that new individuals will be picked soon to replace the unseated ministers given the frictions between NUG leaders. But it never means that the indolent ministers should not be woken up; they Must be taught a tough lesson so that no one may fall in sleep against law and important responsibilities.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the newly emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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