Kabul hosts National Conference of Integrity Champions

Thursday, January 26, 2017 – Kabul: Today, Integrity Watch organized National Conference of Integrity Champions where community volunteers, government officials, elected representatives, civil society, media and international community representatives gathered to discuss successes and failures in prevention of corruption in the government service delivery. The conference marked the tenth anniversary of the Integrity Watch trained volunteers who have been monitoring the government service delivery as a measure to prevent corruption and improve quality of services as early as 2007.

Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch, raised his concerns over government’s lack of attention to the preventive aspects of fighting corruption including mobilizing people. Afghan people have proved that if approached, they are ready to assist the government in the fight against corruption. Mr. Afzali stated that, “Our community volunteers have proven that without any expectation for financial benefits, they are ready to contribute to the fight against corruption. A movement of local corruption fighters is in the making.” He added that this will soon turn into a national movement. He warned that, “We will not allow the corrupt to plunder the Afghan people and go unnoticed.”

H.E. Abdul Satar Murad, Minister of Economy of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, stated that fighting corruption is possible only through cooperation with people. He appreciated the work of Integrity Watch and stated that, “I request the youth and social organizations to support this initiative and make anti corruption an important pillar of their activities.” He added that, “there is a need for revival of Islamic values, and a national struggle against corruption in the country.”

EU Deputy Ambassador, Mr. George Cunningham, appreciated the work of community volunteers stating that, “You are doing the important work, monitoring constructions projects, schools and courts trials on the behalf of the communities at the provincial local level. Keep up the good work. And transfer your experience to the next generation of integrity champions.  I salute you.” He announced that the European Union will support such programs initiated by Afghan government and civil society.

The head of Parliamentary Anti-Corruption Caucus (PACC), Ms. Sahera Sharif and Dr, Azimullah Niazi, a provincial council member of Kabul, was also present at the conference and appreciated the work of the community monitoring as complimentary and useful to the mandate of elected agencies to oversee service delivery.

Integrity Watch Afghanistan in collaboration with Integrity Action, a globally recognized civil society organization, launched the Integrity Champions initiative in 2015. The idea behind the Integrity Champions program is to mobilize and train volunteers who are ready and dedicated to monitor the government service delivery at the local level. The program has three phases and each phase taking one year; in the first year 40 local volunteers will be trained on how to monitor service delivery projects and start practicing it. In the second year, each of these now experienced local monitors will mobilize and train 10 other local monitors increasing the number of volunteers to 400. The number will double during third year of the program. Local monitors will be trained to start monitoring government projects. The Integrity Champions program will be implemented in nine provinces: Bamyan, Parwan, Kapisa, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar, Herat, Paktia and Kabul. The conference on 26th January 2017, also marked the successful completion of the first phase of the Integrity Champions program.

Integrity Watch Afghanistan started to monitor construction projects through local communities ten years back. Integrity Watch staff identified projects and approached the communities where the projects were delivered to start ensuring the quality of the service through monitoring. The communities elected two educated members from among themselves and Integrity Watch staff trained them how to monitor the construction project in their neighborhood. Monthly meetings were held between communities, the implementing company, the government officials and Integrity Watch as well as other civil society to address problems identified by the local monitors.

From 2007 onwards, Integrity Watch scaled up its construction monitoring program to monitoring schools, open court trials and mining sites. By the end of 2016, more than 1100 construction projects, 150 schools, more than 3000 open trials, and a several dozens of mining sites were monitored. The construction monitoring fixed rate (number of problems solved versus number of problems identified) jumped from 30 percent to 72 percent; schools’ management Shuras started to perform better and contributed to solving educational issues; judges started to hold more open trials at court rooms and dressed with the uniform; and finally mining companies are being challenged by local communities.