People and officials discuss municipal services in Herat

Wahidullah Azizi, Integrity Watch Afghanistan

In July 2018, municipality officials and citizens gathered in Herat to discuss the most immediate issues facing their city. In the dialogue that was facilitated by Integrity Watch Afghanistan, more than a hundred people participated. The participants including members of civil society, representatives of communities and members of the Provincial Council, shared their concerns and views about the delivery of municipal services in Herat. Lack of consultation with citizens regarding prioritizing public projects and lack of participation of people in the budgeting process is the major issue highlighted.

Herat is one of the major cities of Afghanistan. According to “Citizens Report Card 2017” survey by Integrity Watch Afghanistan 64% of citizens in Herat were satisfied from the municipal services. Herat’s Municipality performed well in the management of public park and greenery and solid waste management. On the other hand, citizens gave low scores regarding the availability of parking lots, bus stands and wastewater drainage. The scorecard encourages municipalities to compete with each other for better positions while raising understanding of people at the same time.

Opening the ‘Integrity Dialogue’, Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan said, “Despite securing the second position only 6 in 10 people were satisfied with the services. There is a need for people to involve in the process of budgeting and selection of public projects.” Can expectations of citizens be meet if we do not have elected representatives in Municipality?” He asked. Despite clear provisions in the law and commitment by the National Unity Government, no Mayor has been elected so far.  Having elected Mayors boosts accountability and results in improving services delivery to citizens.

Herat Municipality has no Moyar and has been running by Acting Mayors. However, that is not the only issue the Municipality is facing, already in the half of the fiscal year, the central government in Kabul has approved no budget for the Municipality of Herat resulting in many essential services not provided for the citizens.

A panel of related stakeholders including a member of Provincial Council, City Council, member of Provincial Integrity Network (PIN), Integrity Volunteer and, representative of Herat Municipality responded to questions raised by the participants.

Integrity Watch facilitated a series of ‘Integrity Dialogues’ where people and official share a platform to discuss issues most concerning them such as delivery of justice and municipality services. In July and August 2018, Integrity Watch facilitated the conduct of Integrity Dialogues in Mazar-e-Sharif, Kapisa, Parwan, Herat, and Bamiyan. The Dialogues aims at engaging public and officials in a civic discussion with a long-term impact of more openness and accountability on the government part.