CSOs: Fighting corruption stalls in Afghanistan

January 23, 2019, Kabul. Transparency International released its Corruption Perception Index 2019 today in which it places Afghanistan among the top 10 most corrupt countries in the world. The

index

shows that anti-corruption efforts have not made progress since 2018. Afghanistan scored 15 out of 100 in 2017, followed by 16 in 2018, and stalled at that score in 2019.

“The efforts to fight corruption in Afghanistan during the last five years have shown that the campaign has to be revitalized and sustained or it stalls.” said Joy Saunders, Chairperson of Board of Directors for Transparency Afghanistan and should be omitted. She continued, “Afghanistan had to focus on campaign financing regulation and enforcement after 2017 since it had a parliamentary election in 2018 and a presidential election in 2019.”

Afghanistan’s score under the National Unity Government (NUG) dropped one point between 2014 and 2015 from 12 to 11, but it improved four points to 15 in 2016. Then the progress slowed down, and the score improved to only 16 in 2017. In the next two years (2018 and 2019), the score has remained the same at 16 out of 100.

Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch, who was present at the press conference, said, “The National Unity Government made some good progress by amendment of the Access to Information Law and establishing the independent Access to Information Commission. However, this was not enough to take on the pervasive corruption across all sectors in the country.” He continued, “Although the National Unity Government committed to establishing an independent anti-corruption commission in 2014, it took the National Unity Government (NUG) five years to finalize the law.” He further stated that “Afghanistan has to institutionalize the fight against corruption through establishing independent agencies, supporting the existing ones and ensuing separation of powers to restore trust in state institutions and to bring back stability.“

The Afghan government has not respected the spirit of the separation of powers between Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary. Furthermore, the government has not been able to support, finance, and protect independent institutions, including the Supreme Audit Office, the Independent Commission Overseeing Implementation of the Constitution, the Electoral Complaints Commission, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and even the recently established Access to Information Commission.

Wahidullah Azizi, Program Manager at Transparency Afghanistan, said, “The lack of progress in the fight against corruption is disappointing. The results adversely affect government legitimacy, trust among Afghans, and donors’ confidence.”

According to TI, globally, countries with lower CPI scores experience an uneven balance of power, where a few wealthy individuals control government purse strings and decision-making. Furthermore, TI states that countries that perform poorly on the CPI also have higher perceptions among people that money influences elections.

Recommendations:

  • Control political financing to prevent excessive money and influence in politics; in spite of two national-level elections in 2018 (parliament) and 2019 (presidential), Afghanistan has not taken any significant measures to address campaign financing.
  • Tackle preferential treatment to ensure budgets and public services are not driven by personal connections or biased towards special interests. MPs forcing their projects into the National Budget is a significant problem in Afghanistan, including the National Budget 2020 which was approved yesterday.
  • Manage conflicts of interest and address “revolving doors”; This is an area where Afghanistan has made some improvements but it has a long way to go. President Ghani recently asked civil society to research the issue of conflicts of interest. The research has been conducted, and policy discussions have been held. The government should establish a conflict-of-interest management system based on the results of the discussions.
  • Regulate lobbying activities by promoting open and meaningful access to decision-making. Afghanistan does not have a lobbying law, and there has not been any discussion on this issue.
  • Strengthen electoral integrity and prevent and make misinformation campaigns illegal. The allegations of corruption in the last three elections (2014, 2018, 2019), caused a national crisis each time. There is an urgent need to build a trustable political system in the country.
  • Empower citizens and protect activists, whistleblowers, and journalists. There has been some improvement here through the amendment of the Access to Information Law and the enactment of the Whistleblowers Protection Law, but more needs to be done in terms of implementation of these laws.
  • Reinforce checks and balances and promote the separation of powers; there are severe issues with the independence and integrity of the judiciary and legislative branches. In addition, there is an urgent need to support, finance, and protect independent agencies within the government.

For press inquiries, please contact:

Wahidullah Azizi

Email: wazizi@transparency.org.af

Mobile: 0705666962