Editor in Chief: Dr. Hussain Yasa Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Shocking Corruption

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Shocking Corruption

According to the latest report by Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA), an estimate of $3b bribes paid during the year – an almost 50% increase compared to last year. The amount of bribes estimated is much higher than the Afghan government revenue estimates for 2016. It is said that after insecurity and unemployment, corruption is the third biggest problem that Afghans face. In fact, The IWA’s report and figures on corruption by people in an impoverished country like Afghanistan whose 46 percent of population lives below the poverty line is really shocking. Izatullah Adib, a researcher of the survey, said they collected statistics about bribery from people who had the experience of paying bribes. “We used international research standards in this survey,” he said. IWA said most of the respondents in the interview believed that corruption had a negative impact on stability and the phenomenon was one the main causes empowering insurgency in Afghanistan. Therefore, it is said that due to widespread corruption and some people in areas under Taliban control referred their cases to Taliban courts rather than government ones.
Based on IWA reports, the residents who dealt with the courts reported that they were asked for bribes an astounding 55% of the time. Results were not much better when they dealt with prosecutors, or municipal government. But these institutions were not alone. The Electoral Commission, Law Enforcement, the Office of the Chief Executive, Customs, Parliament, Municipalities, the Office of the President, and the Afghan Government as a whole were all implicated, with more than 60% of respondents saying they were corrupt to some extent. This gives citizens very limited options about where to go to seek redress when they are confronted with corruption. Fewer than half of those who experience corruption ever report it, many saying that it would be useless, or could even provoke revenge. In addition, 49% of the population believes that the international community has no interest in fighting corruption, while 46% think that the international community does not support honest officials.
As reflected by a separate source, bribes are paid in different ways for dissimilar purposes; they might pay to finalize or speed up a procedure, to do a political deal, to avoid paying a fine or to receive better treatment and so on. In Afghanistan as a whole, by far the most common of those purposes is “getting things done” or, in other words, to facilitate or speed up the delivery of a public service that would not otherwise be provided (59.4 per cent). Other purposes such as reducing the cost of a procedure (10.6 per cent), avoiding the payment of a fine (13.3 per cent), receiving better treatment (6.7 per cent), and other purposes (7.4 per cent) are less important. Interestingly, the finalization or speeding up of a procedure is a more common motive for bribery in rural than urban areas (61.1 per cent vs. 53.2 per cent), whereas reducing the cost of a procedure and receiving better treatment are more common motives in urban environments. Thus bribes are paid in various methods including cash, valuables, foods, services and etc.
Though the National Unity Government (NUG) inherited corruption from the former administration, the NUG not only has failed to fight it, but disagreements between its leaders and lack of political will have also allowed it to grow. Despite the fact that the government established the National Procurement Committee (NPC) and the specialized Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC) as part of its deceitful anti-corruption drive, the outcomes are against the claims. The government claimed that the ACJC was designed to try senior government officials has no tangible achievement. They should realize that they cannot deceive the people for ever; Instead of playing with public perception, the government leaders have to combat corruption faithfully.
Afghanistan needs effective tools and tactics in order to combat corruption, including monitoring and supervision of adherence to the law and regulations, protection of whistle-blowers and anti-bribery rules. The government of Afghanistan needs to identify missing policies and take steps to establish them. For instance, whistle-blowers can be strong tool to identify corruption, but Afghanistan still does not have a law to protect them.
Similarly, the anti-money laundering law and anti-terrorism law need to be properly implemented to prevent illegal financial activities, including those that fund militant groups. However, several types of anti-corruption organizations have been created within the Afghan government in order to bring reform and pursue corruption cases. These organizations, such as the High Office of Oversight (HOO), received international assistance but in many cases failed to live up to their promise. For example, USAID has reported that the HOO was dysfunctional, ineffective, and highly politicized. The bitter reality thereof is that the majority of institutions active in the fight against graft are more corrupt than other government institutions. Many surveys have found out that the legal and judicial institutions are more corrupt than others though their key responsibility is to counter corruption and ensure justice. 
Finally, the successful fight against this paralyzing disease needs far more fundamental strategy to build a free ground corruption and functional system in the country: we have to appoint honest leadership in key institutions; make the judiciary independent; promote the law of access to information; establish an independent anti-corruption agency; make asset declaration mandatory for all those who hold power; pay sufficient and justly salary to government personnel, establish transparent mechanism for procurements, provide quality services to citizens and eliminate the culture of impunity in Afghanistan.
Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it’s set a rolling it must increase. – Charles Cateb Colton

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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