Integrity watch: Afghans pay close to $3b in bribes annually

 Corruption remains one of the three biggest problems Afghans face

December 8, 2016 (Kabul, Afghanistan) – Integrity Watch Afghanistan launched its biennial National Corruption Survey today. The report estimated $3b were paid in bribes in the last one year – an almost 50% increase compared to 2014. The amount of bribes estimated is much higher than the Afghan government revenue estimates for 2016. This survey indicates that following insecurity and unemployment, corruption is the third biggest problem that Afghans face. The survey also shows that corruption is having a negative effect on Afghanistan’s security.

“The devastating level of corruption undermines state legitimacy and erodes public trust. Institutional capture coupled with petty bribes paid by citizens on daily basis due to systemic corruption has become so serious that it threatens national security.” Said Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch.

The overwhelming majority (nearly 80%) of Afghans see corruption as a serious, and growing, problem. Most say that corruption is worse than it was two years ago, when IWA conducted its last survey.

Afghans are also convinced that corruption is having a negative effect on security, with more than half expressing the belief that corruption is a major factor in fueling the insurgency. The early euphoria that accompanied the inauguration of the National Unity Government in October 2014, has largely dissipated, leaving a populace that is disappointed, angry, and fearful about the future.

When given the opportunity to name more than one major problem in Afghanistan, corruption looms large. But, corruption’s “third place” status is misleading: both security and the economy are being negatively affected by corruption, and neither can be effectively tackled until corrupt officials are replaced, and trust in the government is restored. That trust has been seriously undermined during recent years.

Respondents 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.

The international community comes in for its share of criticism as well. More than a decade of tacitly facilitating corruption in the name of stability, of supporting strongmen and drug lords under the dubious assumption that they will help maintain order, has yielded bitter fruit. Fully 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.

Perhaps most discouraging is the fact that only a small number of respondents (16%) think that corruption can be substantially reduced. It has become such a factor of everyday life that it is just one more obstacle to be negotiated.

Just over half (52%) of respondents think that the current government has a sincere desire to fight corruption, which means that much of the country does not buy promises of reform expressed by the National Unity Government.

This is the most obvious conclusion to be drawn from the more than 7,800 responses received from all 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces.

Integrity Watch Afghanistan urges the government to undertake necessary reforms as quickly as possible. The sooner that the following recommendations are implemented, the sooner Afghanistan can begin to make progress in tackling its problems.


  1. Establish an Independent Judiciary: Given the nearly universal perception that the courts, judges, prosecutors are corrupt, reforming the justice sector must be a high priority for the government. There is very likely no other institution that has such potential for sending Afghans into the arms of the insurgency; those living in areas near to Taliban, or under Taliban control, often prefer to have disagreements settled by the Taliban courts, rather than taking their chances with the despised state institutions. There are several steps that can assist in making the judicial sector more transparent:

Open Trials: If the public were allowed to monitor trials, as is mandated in the Constitution, there would be a much more limited scope for corruption.

Community Engagement: According to preliminary results of an independent study undertaken by the University of California San Diego, community monitoring can go a long way towards promoting accountability and transparency in the courts

Independent Judicial Services Commission: Judges, judicial staff should be appointed and trained by an independent commission, free from the influence of the Government, National Assembly or Supreme Court.

  1. Establish clear and transparent mechanisms for dealing with corruption within the Afghan National Police (ANP): Along with the judiciary, the police are seen as corrupt by a large swath of the population. The data is a bit problematic, since respondents gave overall high marks to the National Police, while rating their local police much less favorably. But it does emerge that there are corruption problems within the ANP that must be addressed. The following steps would help:

Establish an independent commission within the ANP to oversee merit-based hiring and promotions. This could be similar to the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC). This commission would be tasked with processing petitions for promotion and appointments based on transparent procedures and criteria.

Establish clear guidelines and procedures for processing corruption-related complaints through the 119 hotline, and establish a body with the power to investigate such complaints, independent from the MoI and ANP.

Strengthen the Office of the Police Ombudsman, so that it can effectively investigate complaints related to the police and report regularly to the public

  1. Create a channel through which citizens can report corrupt officials without fear of reprisals. While the government will need to vet complaints to ensure they are valid, they must protect the identity of the complainant as much as possible, if citizens are to feel secure.

These complaints should be able to be monitored through a public channel; those who report corruption should be able to see the progress of their case, and should receive feedback.

There should be publicly available audits of the complaints system, so that citizens can see what is happening.

Establish an ombudsman system: An effective complaints management system would need an ombudsman to ensure that the process was secure, transparent, and effective.

About National Corruption Survey 2016:

This was a countrywide survey by Integrity Watch Afghanistan on Afghans’ perceptions and experiences of corruption, and an assessment of how corruption impacts their lives and communities. Since 2007, this is the fifth biennial survey of its kind by Integrity Watch. The survey offers insights to the high level government authorities, political leaders, CSOs, think tanks and public officials about Afghans’ perception of corruption and their expectations from the state and political leaders of the country.

The target population for this survey was Afghans age 18 years and older. According to population data from the Central Statistics Organization (CSO) of Afghanistan (Settled Population by Sex and Age Groups -2014-15), around 48 percent of the provincial population is 18 and over. This means that the total of the target population was 13,021401 (total population of Afghanistan is = 27101365).

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