Government-civil society conclude first-ever joint assessment of $400 million rural road program

Jawad Dadban, Advocacy Officer

 A joint committee of government agencies and Integrity Watch, appointed by President Ghani last year, recently completed an assessment of the National Rural Access Program (NRAP) of the Ministry of Public Works. The initiative is the first of its kind in Afghanistan allowing civil society to participate in a joint audit of government programs. The committee has presented its final report to President Ghani and it is expected that the government will make the report public in the near future.

The assessment found that unconformities and irregularities were prevalent in the conduct of NRAP and UNOPS during the years covered by the assessment which has had adverse effects on the transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness of the program. The comprehensive assessment examined all areas of NRAP including its human resources, procurement, financial and technical/engineering affairs. It covered NRAP activities from 1391 through 1395 and its focus was mainly on assessment of transparency, efficiency and effectiveness of NRAP activities and performance in the above-mentioned areas during these years; NRAP’s performance conformity and adherence to laws, regulations, rules of procedures, guidelines, international standards and contractual requirements; and the efficiency and effectiveness of its organizational structures and internal systems especially its Tashkil and internal control systems.

The National Rural Access Program is Afghanistan’s leading program in the construction sector, specifically in the construction of roads in rural areas especially the construction of roads from provincial capitals to districts and roads between and within districts. It was established as one of Afghanistan’s national priority programs by an agreement between the transitional government of Afghanistan and the World Bank in 2002. Since then, it has implemented more than 1400 construction projects and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars throughout the country. It has been funded by the World Bank (WB), European Union (EU), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Italy and Spain Governments.

Joint audit of such program does not only strengthen the integrity of the audit process, it also provides an opportunity for exchange of knowledge, expertise, and perspective between the public sector and civil society enhancing the capacity of both sides to hold the public institutions accountable for their actions. It is believed that such initiatives would also help in improving public confidence in public institutions in the country. Similar initiatives have been promoted under the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in other countries such as the Philippines. Therefore, it is expected that such joint audits will increase in the future and Afghanistan will learn from and contribute to experiences of other OGP member countries.