Monday, November 14, 2016 – Kabul: Integrity Watch Afghanistan launched a report indicating that institutional arrangements to fight corruption are against National Unity Government’s (NUG) London Conference commitments and United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) as well as the Jakarta Principles on Anti-Corruption Agencies. The NUG suffers from multi-organizational sub-optimization where institutions with parallel mandates exist and work without any coordination. The NUG has shown no signs of establishing an independent anti-corruption agency that would lead the fight against corruption through a specialized and non-political approach. The NUG has also failed to reform key institutions and to provide technical and financial support to newly created ones.
Talking to media, Executive Director of Integrity Watch, Sayed Ikram Afzali said, “The government has tried to win international community’s support by establishing new institutions during or just before international events on Afghanistan.” In December 2014, during the London Conference on Afghanistan, the NUG committed to establish an independent anti-corruption commission. However, it has never been established. Instead, President Ghani announced the establishment of High Council on Governance and Anti-Corruption (HCAC) and the Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC) around Warsaw Summit and Brussels Conference on Afghanistan. “The newly established institutions lack independence and suffer from lack of accountability since they neither have independent members nor are independent from political influence,” said Mr. Afzali.
“The NUG has failed to bring robust reform in the current institutions mandated to fight corruption,” said Naser Timory, Advocacy Manager at Integrity Watch. “Even reform in the justice sector institutions have been superficial and half-hearted at best,” he said. Despite some progress in the process of big procurements, reform at the mid and lower level has been neglected. Key institutions, such as Supreme Audit Office (SAO), has not been reformed despite imminent failures. Others that have proven completely ineffective, such as the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOO) have not been abolished. President Ghani removed the authorities of the HOO during the first month in office realizing that it had proved to be ineffective. However, the NUG has backtracked recently and reinstalled the HOO authority of assessing government agencies.
“The newly established institutions such as Oversight Commission on Access to Information (OCAI) and ACJC have not received the kind of technical and financial support that they needed, showing clear signs of government’s incompetence to enable these institution,” Mr. Afzali added. In spite of clear instruction form the President to the Ministry of Information and Culture and Ministry of Finance, the ministry failed to provide the necessary support to the OCAI. The government expects international community to provide technical and financial support to ACJC despite its emphasis that the fight corruption is a top priority of the Afghan government. Although the announcement of ACJC was made in May this year, it took the government six months to have the first case adjudicated at the ACJC.
“After two years, the government neither has a strategy to fight corruption nor has it drafted a new anti-corruption law. Although a commitment has been made in the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, there is no discussion taking place right now on the strategy and civil society has not been consulted so far,” Mr. Timory said. “All the core counter and anti-corruption institutions are based on executive and legislative decrees making the legal basis of such agencies extremely weak,” he added.
- The NUG should consider corruption as a threat to national security and should treat the fight against corruption a top priority as dealing with insecurity.
- The NUG’s leadership should demonstrate political will at institutional level and a vision to fight corruption. This should be reflected in anti-corruption policies, legal frameworks, and plans for key institutions and should prioritize the security sector, justice system and financial sector as priority areas for intervention.
- The Government of Afghanistan should implement its commitment to strengthen the ACJC as a coordination mechanism for the law enforcement and justice institutions to fight corruption where, without further delays, specialized police, prosecutors, and judges should sit under one roof to adjudicate serious corruption related cases. The international community should politically and financially support the creation of ACJC.
- The Government of Afghanistan should establish an independent anti-corruption commission, based on Jakarta Principles to oversee anti-corruption efforts, strategic direction, preventive measures, case-tracking of ACJC, and coordinate a whole-state endeavor against corruption.
- The independence of proposed anti-corruption commission should be ensured by appointing five commissioners for a fixed tenure to lead the anti-corruption commission to ensure independence, impartial decision-making and to avoid political pressure or influence.
- The proposed independent anti-corruption commission should be mandated to perform the role of an ombudsman office as well to receive and manage corruption related complaints and report.
- The proposed independent anti-corruption commission should have an international advisory group to provide advice to the commission and key government institutions in preparing and implementation their anti-corruption plans.
- Dissolve institutions with parallel functions such as the High Office of Oversight that have proven to be ineffective and continue to waste financial and human resources.
- Restrain the role of the HCAC to high-level coordination to avoid duplication of functions and competition among the state institutions that have a role in anti-corruption in particular between the HCAC and the proposed anti-corruption commission.
- Include independent members, including civil society, in the HCAC as either members or permanent observers to ensure transparency, impartial decision making and to reduce the gap between government and the people.
- Corruption detection agencies such as Supreme Audit Office and Major Crimes Task Force should be reformed, including drastic changes in its leadership and increasing professional staff at technical level, to improve detection of corruption.
- Other key institutions such as Oversight Commission on Access to Information should be provided political and financial support and independence to promote a culture of transparency across government institutions.
You can find the full report in PDF format here.